Britain’s Inquiry into the Iraq War and the Israel Lobby Taboo
Friday, February 12, 2010 4:52 AM
From: “Stephen Sniegoski”
Government investigations of controversial events are invariably whitewashes to protect the government and eliminate the truth. So it is to a large degree with Britain’s Iraq Inquiry, which Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced on June 15, 2009 for the stated purpose of identifying lessons that can be learned from the Iraq conflict. The Iraq Inquiry was officially launched on July 30, 2009 but did not begin its deliberations until November. It is being run by a committee of five persons chaired by Sir John Chilcot, and thus is commonly dubbed the Chilcot Inquiry.
[Iraq Inquiry web site: http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/ ]
The Inquiry Committee is stacked against truth since one of the five members of the committee, Sir Lawrence Freedman was a foreign policy adviser to Tony Blair and another member, Martin Gilbert (Churchill’s biographer) is very pro-Israel and idealizes Tony Blair as a great leader. But despite the fact that the board was stacked against truth, some element of truth has been able to seep through. And recently it has been reported in the mainstream press in the UK and even in the US that testimony at the Inquiry revealed that Blair and Bush had agreed upon military action against Iraq as early as April 2002 though this decision on war was never revealed to the US people or to Congress. In fact, the October 11, 2002 Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq did not expressly spell out war and President Bush claimed at that time that it was not a mandate for war but could be used to bring about a solution by peaceful means.
Barely mentioned in the mainstream US or UK media, however, were statements made by Tony Blair in his testimony before the Inquiry referring to the involvement of Israel in the decision for war. This is brought out in a piece by Stephen M. Walt, the co-author along with John J. Mearsheimer of the bombshell work, “The Israel Lobby.” Walt points out that Blair stated that in his meeting with Bush in Crawford, Texas in April 2002 the issue of Israel loomed large:
“As I recall that discussion, it was less to do with specifics about what we were going to do on Iraq or, indeed, the Middle East, because the Israel issue was a big, big issue at the time. I think, in fact, I remember, actually, there may have been conversations that we had even with Israelis, the two of us, whilst we were there. So that was a major part of all this.”
Walt points out: “Notice that Blair is not saying that Israel dreamed up the idea of attacking Iraq or that Bush was bent on war solely to benefit Israel or even to appease the Israel lobby here at home. But Blair is acknowledging that concerns about Israel were part of the equation, and that the Israeli government was being actively consulted in the planning for the war.
“Blair’s comments fit neatly with the argument we make about the lobby and Iraq. Specifically, Professor Mearsheimer and I made it clear in our article and especially in our book that the idea of invading Iraq originated in the United States with the neoconservatives, and not with the Israeli government. But as the neoconservative pundit Max Boot once put it, steadfast support for Israel is ‘a key tenet of neoconservatism.’ Prominent neo-conservatives occupied important positions in the Bush administration, and in the aftermath of 9/11, they played a major role in persuading Bush and Cheney to back a war against Iraq, which they had been advocating since the late 1990s. We also pointed out that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other Israeli officials were initially skeptical of this scheme, because they wanted the U.S. to focus on Iran, not Iraq. However, they became enthusiastic supporters of the idea of invading Iraq once the Bush administration made it clear to them that Iraq was just the first step in a broader campaign of ‘regional transformation’ that would eventually include Iran.”
So, in short, Blair did reveal an Israel connection to the war, that the official gatekeepers of the US (and UK) media have sought to deny, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It should be pointed out, however, that even Walt tends to downplay somewhat the actual extent of the Israel connection. For while it was the neocons who from the late 1990s onward pushed the strategic plan to first attack Iraq before moving on to Iran and Israel’s other Middle East adversaries, their entire plan paralleled earlier schemes developed in Israel, especially by the Likudniks (e.g. Oded Yinon), to destabilize Israel’s enemies by war, starting with a war on Iraq. In short, the neocons were hardly original and the overall destabilization through war strategy originated in Israel for the purpose of advancing Israeli geostrategic interests.
Now the Sharon government did see Iran as its fundamental enemy, but it is not completely certain to what degree Walt is correct in saying: “Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other Israeli officials were initially skeptical of this [neocon] scheme, because they wanted the U.S. to focus on Iran, not Iraq.” Most studies on Israeli Cabinets going back to Ben-Gurion have indicated differences of opinion regarding exactly what foreign policy strategies to pursue. Ben-Gurion supposedly used the saying: “Two Jews, three opinions.” With this in mind, I would think that some Israelis in high places probably subscribed to the neocon Iraq war position from the beginning, especially since they would know (even if they relied solely on what the neocons said publicly) that Iran would be a future target. And some Israelis did push the neocon line at a very early date, as I bring out in “The Transparent Cabal.” For example, Rafi Eitan, former head of Mossad who had engineered the capture of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, echoed the neocon line in September 2001 by claiming that Saddam was the “mastermind” of the 9/11 attacks. (TC, p. 146) And Walt illustrates that by June 2002, after the supposed Crawford agreement, leading Israeli officials were actively pushing for an attack. It is difficult to see evidence of previous opposition to the neocon agenda. It would really seem that if there had been a strong preference to attack Iran, Israeli officials would not have so quickly gotten on the bandwagon for war on Iraq.
Walt acknowledges that the supporters of Israel will continue to make an effort to suppress the truth about the role of Israel and its supporters in bringing about the war on Iraq but Walt does not think it will work. Walt writes: “This campaign won’t work, however, because too many people already know that Israel and the lobby were cheerleaders for the war and with the passage of time, more and more evidence of their influence on the decision for war will leak out. The situation is analogous to what happened with the events surrounding the infamous Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in August 1964. The Johnson administration could dissemble and cover its tracks for a few years, but eventually the real story got out, as will happen with Iraq.”
Obviously, the analogy with the attempted Vietnam cover-up is totally fallacious and one would think that Walt would recognize this. In regard to Vietnam, much, if not most of the media establishment, became opposed to the war by the tail end of the 1960s and the mainstream media (and the academic community) was quite willing to present any information to discredit the war. In contrast, the willingness to mention pro-Israel involvement in the war on Iraq is virtually non-existent in the mainstream media.
Walt actually concedes the mainstream media’s ability to cover-up the Israel issue but holds that the “internet and the blogosphere is allowing the word to spread. Thankfully, we no longer have to rely on the mainstream media to get the story straight.”
This faith in the internet is overrated. People in important positions know it is not career enhancing to quote the non-PC items from the Internet. And while the number of individuals who peruse the Internet is large, the number who actually read material critical of Israel and its lobby is rather small. Mostly, the critics of the Israel lobby are preaching to the choir, not making new converts.
Most Americans still get their news from the mainstream media (including mainstream Internet sites) and thus don’t really know much about the role of Israel and its lobby in influencing US policy. In short, the impact of the Internet dissidents on Israel is rather meager. Again, this is quite a contrast to the impact of the Vietnam war dissenters, who by the end of the 1960s had their views publicized in the mainstream media. While numerous elected officials opposed the Vietnam war, only a very rare elected official will ever dare mention the role of Israel’s supporters in influencing US policy, and usually those officials are about to retire (e.g., Senator Fritz Hollings) or later recant (e.g., Congressman Jim Moran).
Perhaps an even more serious phenomenon is the fear of the critics of the Israel lobby to identify with others who express similar views on the grounds that such an association will lead to charges of anti-Semitism. This observation is based on personal experience concerning the virtual disregard of my book, “The Transparent Cabal,” by anti-war outlets that dare to mention the Israel lobby. Now, my book is far from a best seller but it has sales equal to those of many academic works and it has been praised by a number of individuals of some stature. Yet a significant number of individuals who deal with the Israel lobby topic refuse to mention my work and this includes Mearsheimer and Walt. As a matter of fact, most of these individuals will not even refer to my book in private correspondence. Now my work on the neocons and their connection to Israel is more extensively documented than any other work on the subject and thus provides solid proof for a number of often disputed points. If there are errors in my work it would seem reasonable that others should simply mention them. If I am too harsh toward the neocons or Israel, this could be mentioned too. But instead of being criticized for any faults, my book is treated with silence. This is difficult to explain when it is done by anti-war critics of the Israel lobby, but I guess that when taboo issues are involved the possibility of getting into trouble causes people with something to lose to be exceedingly cautious in being identified with writers lacking mainstream sanction.
I don’t think that I am alone in being ignored in this manner. So if even people such as Mearsheimer and Walt shy away from non-PC authors or from books lacking the imprimatur of big name publishers, it is hard to see how any significant number of people will gain an understanding of the power of the Israel lobby.
Returning to the Chilcot Inquiry, I must mention that the issue of Israel and its supporters has already been touched upon in England and largely silenced with the charge of anti-Semitism. On November 22, 2009, as the Inquiry was preparing to convene, a former British ambassador, Oliver Miles, wrote an article in “The Independent” newspaper expressing concern at the fact that two out of the five members of the Inquiry Committee, Martin Gilbert and Lawrence Freedman, were “strong supporters of Tony Blair and/or the Iraq war”. He also pointed out that both Gilbert and Freedman were Jewish, and that Gilbert was a very strong Zionist. http://tinyurl.com/yz6q55f
Writing in “The Independent” on November 28 and December 12, columnist Richard Ingrams wondered whether the Zionists’ links to the Iraq invasion would be brushed aside. His comments on this issue on December 12 included a favorable reference to my book – “The Transparent Cabal.” (“Richard Ingrams’s Week: Ian Fleming’s creations are preferable to reality,” December 12, 2009, http://tinyurl.com/yb4p7ms )
After these contentions, a number of other commentators from the mainstream media, along with Inquiry Committee member Martin Gilbert, trotted out the lethal charge of anti-Semitism, implying that any allegation that Jews, including very pro-Zionist Jews such as Martin Gilbert, might be naturally biased toward the Jewish state was an example of heinous anti-Semitism. Of course, the potential accusation of anti-Semitism also would ward off any investigation of pro-Zionist influence on war policy in Britain or the United States.
On January 31, I wrote a letter on this subject to “The Independent,” which a friend, James Morris, graciously put forth the effort (making a number of telephone calls) to submit for me. I thought that because of Ingrams’ reference to my book in “The Independent,” that newspaper might be willing to allow me to point out that my book provides extensive evidence of the pro-Israel neoconservatives’ influence in bringing about the US war on Iraq. In my letter, I pointed out that this evidence made it necessary for the Inquiry to engage in an investigation of that charge and to not simply dismiss it as conspiratorial anti-Semitism. Perhaps not surprisingly, my effort failed as the editor replied that the newspaper did not publish “plugs” for books – my reference to the evidence in “The Transparent Cabal” being written off as simply a book “plug.” Of course, this response presented me with a something of a Catch-22 situation since my book provides the necessary proof for the neocon/Israel role in the war on Iraq, which the media luminaries charging anti-Semitism were claiming was obviously untrue. Although “The Independent” refused to run my letter in the print addition, it was allowed to be placed among the online comments – along with myriads of other comments by readers.
[My letter is toward the bottom of the web page http://tinyurl.com/yganmvz ]
The stated purpose of the Chilcot Inquiry is to learn lessons from the Iraq conflict. Obviously the ignoring, or even downplaying, of the role of Israel and its sympathizers will prevent the fundamental lesson from being learned. And it is this lesson that needs to be learned immediately since the Israel and its supporters are the main factor pushing for war on Iran. The hand of Israel is even more explicit in the build-up for war on Iran than it had been in the war on Iraq. In fact, the expressed justifications for war on Iran usually only involve Israel and Jews – allegations about Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial, “wiping Israel off the map,” aiding terrorists against Israel. In fact, most of the expressed reasons for the US to take a militant line against Iran have little to do with any particular danger to the United States. Despite the obvious role of Israel and its supporters in the move toward war on Iran, however, it is still taboo to claim that the war would be fought for the interests of Israel not the United States. Most likely, with the new revelations limited largely to the Bush administration’s early decision for war, the view of the war will only be revised to the extent that it will be seen as resulting from the aberrant views of Bush and Blair, and perhaps Cheney. The role of Israel and its lobby will remain largely unknown. And no connection will be made between the motivation for the war on Iraq and the build-up for the war on Iran, which will continue to be driven by Israel and its lobby unimpeded by any significant criticism.
Transparent Cabal Website:
Amazon listing of The Transparent Cabal:
UK’s Iraq inquiry turns focus to Bush officials
By DAVID STRINGER
The Associated Press
Monday, February 8, 2010; 4:18 PM
LONDON — Britain’s inquiry into the Iraq war will seek meetings with former members of the Bush administration after taking evidence from Tony Blair and other key British officials, the panel’s chairman said Monday.
John Chilcot, head of the inquiry, confirmed that he hopes to obtain evidence from officials in the United States, but did not name specific individuals, or specify if his panel hopes to put questions to former President George W. Bush himself.
“We cannot take formal evidence as such from foreign nationals, but we can of course have discussions with them,” Chilcot said, bringing to a close the inquiry’s first set of public evidence sessions.
The hearings began in November and have seen Blair, current MI6 intelligence agency chief John Sawers, the head of Britain’s military Jock Stirrup and a host of ministers and government officials offer testimony.
Chilcot said his panel will question British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Development Secretary Douglas Alexander in a second set of hearings before summer, and also make plans to gather evidence from U.S. officials and military veterans.
“We will be holding a number of meetings and seminars with a range of individuals, British and non-British … these could include veterans from the Iraq campaign and officials from the former American administration,” Chilcot said.
Inquiry spokesman Rae Stewart said no decision had yet been made on who would be asked to meet with the inquiry panel, or when and where any sessions would take place.
David Sherzer, a spokesman for Bush, declined to comment when asked if any request had so far been made to the former president, or whether he would cooperate if asked.
Several sessions have focused on the accusations that Blair offered Bush support for an invasion as early as April 2002 – a year before legislators approved Britain’s involvement.
Britain’s former ambassador to the U.S., Christopher Meyer, told the inquiry that Bush and Blair used a meeting that April at Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, to “sign in blood” an agreement to take military action in Iraq. However, in his testimony, Blair’s former chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, denied any agreement had been made and called Meyer’s account unreliable.
Lawrence Freedman, a military historian who sits on the inquiry’s five-member panel, indicated in questioning that Bush had advised Blair he planned to topple Saddam Hussein even if the despot cooperated with United Nations weapons inspectors.
“Can you start by confirming that you knew that military action was planned by the US for the middle of March, come what may?” Freedman asked ex-British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in a hearing Monday. “You were copied in, presumably, to reports of conversations between the prime minister and the president?”
Details of private correspondence between Blair and Bush have been provided to the panel, but have not been released publicly.
Chilcot said his team had been granted access to tens of thousands of government documents, many highly classified. “They allow us to shine a bright light into seldom-seen corners of the government machine,” he said.
Some lawmakers have demanded that letters between Blair and Bush should be made public, but the government has declined.
Brown ordered the inquiry to scrutinize the case made for war and errors in planning for post-conflict reconstruction. Chilcot’s panel will offer recommendations by the end of the year, but won’t apportion blame or but establish criminal or civil liability.
I don’t mean to say I told you so, but…
Posted By Stephen M. Walt Monday, February 8, 2010 – 4:24 PM
Probably the most controversial claim in my work with John Mearsheimer on the Israel lobby is our argument that it played a key role in the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. Even some readers who were generally sympathetic to our overall position found that claim hard to accept, and some left-wing critics accused us of letting Bush and Cheney off the hook or of ignoring the importance of other interests, especially oil. Of course, Israel’s defenders in the lobby took issue even more strenuously, usually by mischaracterizing our arguments and ignoring most (if not all) of the evidence we presented.
So I hope readers will forgive me if I indulge today in a bit of self-promotion, or more precisely, self-defense. This week, yet another piece of evidence surfaced that suggests we were right all along (HT to Mehdi Hasan at the New Statesman and J. Glatzer at Mondoweiss). In his testimony to the Iraq war commission in the U.K., former Prime Minister Tony Blair offered the following account of his discussions with Bush in Crawford, Texas in April 2002. Blair reveals that concerns about Israel were part of the equation and that Israel officials were involved in those discussions.
Take it away, Tony:
As I recall that discussion, it was less to do with specifics about what we were going to do on Iraq or, indeed, the Middle East, because the Israel issue was a big, big issue at the time. I think, in fact, I remember, actually, there may have been conversations that we had even with Israelis, the two of us, whilst we were there. So that was a major part of all this.”
Notice that Blair is not saying that Israel dreamed up the idea of attacking Iraq or that Bush was bent on war solely to benefit Israel or even to appease the Israel lobby here at home. But Blair is acknowledging that concerns about Israel were part of the equation, and that the Israeli government was being actively consulted in the planning for the war.
Blair’s comments fit neatly with the argument we make about the lobby and Iraq. Specifically, Professor Mearsheimer and I made it clear in our article and especially in our book that the idea of invading Iraq originated in the United States with the neoconservatives, and not with the Israeli government. But as the neoconservative pundit Max Boot once put it, steadfast support for Israel is “a key tenet of neoconservatism.” Prominent neo-conservatives occupied important positions in the Bush administration, and in the aftermath of 9/11, they played a major role in persuading Bush and Cheney to back a war against Iraq, which they had been advocating since the late 1990s. We also pointed out that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other Israeli officials were initially skeptical of this scheme, because they wanted the U.S. to focus on Iran, not Iraq. However, they became enthusiastic supporters of the idea of invading Iraq once the Bush administration made it clear to them that Iraq was just the first step in a broader campaign of “regional transformation” that would eventually include Iran.
At that point top Israeli leaders from across the political spectrum became cheerleaders for the invasion, and they played a prominent role in helping to sell the war here in the United States. Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington, DC in April 2002 and spoke in the U.S. Senate, telling his audience “the urgent need to topple Saddam is paramount,” and that the campaign “deserves the unconditional support of all sane governments.” (It sure sounds like he was well aware of the discussions in Crawford, doesn’t it?) In May, foreign minister Shimon Peres said on CNN that “Saddam Hussein is as dangerous as bin Laden,” and that the United States “cannot sit and wait.” A month later, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post recommending that the Bush administration “should, first of all, focus on Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein.”
This chorus continued through the summer and fall, with Barak and Netanyahu writing additional op-eds in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, each calling for military action to topple Saddam. Netanyahu’s piece was titled “The Case for Toppling Saddam” and said that “nothing less than dismantling his regime will do.” Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s official spokesman, Ra’anan Gissen, offered similar statements during this period as well, and Sharon himself told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee in August 2002 that Iraq was “the greatest danger facing Israel.” According to an Aug. 16 article by Aluf Benn in Ha’aretz, Sharon reportedly told the Bush administration that putting off an attack would “only give [Saddam] more of an opportunity to accelerate his program of WMD.” Foreign Minister Peres reiterated his own warnings as well, and told reporters in September 2002 that “the campaign against Saddam Hussein is a must.” (For sources, see pp. 233-38).
If that’s not enough evidence of where Israel’s leaders were in the run-up to the war, consider that former President Bill Clinton told an audience at an Aspen Institute meeting in 2006 that “every Israeli politician I knew” (and he knows a lot of them) believed that Saddam Hussein was so great a threat that he should be removed even if he did not have WMD. Nor is this testimony at all surprising, given that we are talking about the leader who had fired Scud missiles into Israel during the first Gulf War in 1991 and had been giving money to the families of suicide bombers. If the Bush administration was bent on taking him out and then turning its gun-sights on Syria and Iran, one can easily understand why Israelis would welcome it.
Now, what about key groups in the lobby itself? If the neoconservatives deserve the blame for dreaming up the idea of invading Iraq, key groups and individuals in the lobby played an important role in selling it on Capitol Hill and to the public at large. AIPAC head Howard Kohr told the New York Sun in January 2003 that one of the organization’s “success stories” over the previous year was “quietly lobbying Congress” to approve the resolution authorizing the use of force, a fact confirmed by journalists such as Nathan Guttman of the Forward, Michelle Goldberg of Salon.com, John B. Judis of the New Republic, and even Jeffrey Goldberg in The New Yorker (see p. 242). Pundits at pro-Israel think tanks like the Brookings Institutions’s Saban Center were openly backing war by the fall of 2002, with Martin Indyk, the head of the center, and Kenneth Pollack, its director of research, playing especially prominent roles.
Moreover, in this same period both the Jewish Council on Public Affairs and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations voted to endorse the use of force “as a last resort.” Mortimer Zuckerman, a well-connected businessman and publisher who was then the chairman of the Conference of Presidents, was especially convinced about the futility of U.N. inspections and the need to topple Saddam, and wrote several editorials making that case in his magazine (U.S. News and World Report).
Still skeptical? Consider the following passage from an article by Matthew Berger of the Jewish Telegraph Agency, published just after President Bush’s September 2002 appearance at the United Nations, where he threatened military action if Iraq did not comply with U.N. resolutions:
Despite their caution and without specifying a formal policy, Jewish leaders predominantly expressed support for Bush’s words at the United Nations.
They said he detailed a strong case that Saddam has consistently ignored U.N. resolutions, that he was seeking to obtain weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam has shown a propensity towards using them.
“Iraq is the single most important threat right now to world peace and to our safety,” said Dr. Mandell Ganchrow, executive vice president of the Orthodox Religious Zionists of America. He described Saddam as a “maniac” who “has proven that he will gas his own people.”
“The fanaticism that exists throughout the Middle East is best addressed by first dealing with Iraq,” agreed Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Reform movement’s Union of American Hebrew Congregations.
Many American Jewish leaders expressed the fear that Saddam has not been quiet for the past decade because of a loss of will, but because he has been using the time to garner weapons for an eventual attack on U.S. interests and allies.
“Do we have to wait until a target is hit, and the world says, ‘Ah, yes, he did have weapons of mass destruction,'” asked David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee.”
Not to be outdone, the editor of Jewish Week, Gary Rosenblatt, wrote an editorial in mid-December 2002 saying that “Washington’s imminent war on Saddam Hussein is . . . an opportunity to rid the world of a dangerous tyrant who present a particularly horrific threat Israel.” He went on to say “the Torah instructs that when you enemy seeks to kill you kill him first. Self-defense is not permitted; it is commanded.” Even the relatively liberal Rabbi David Saperstein of the Union of Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center told journalist Michelle Goldberg that “the Jewish community would want to see a forceful resolution to the threat that Saddam Hussein poses.” “Forceful resolution” means war, and Saperstein also offered comparisons to the Bosnian conflict and the Nazi era to reinforce his call for military action.
Finally, consider the following passage from an editorial in the Jewish newspaper Forward, published in 2004:
As President Bush attempted to sell the war .. in Iraq, America’s most important Jewish organizations rallied as one to his defense. In statement after statement community leaders stressed the need to rid the world of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. Some groups went even further, arguing that that the removal of the Iraqi leaders would represent a significant step toward bringing peace to the Middle East and winning America’s war on terrorism”
The editorial also noted that “concern for Israel’s safety rightfully factored into the deliberations of the main Jewish groups.”
The Forward, it is worth noting, is well-connected and has a well-deserved reputation for probity in its reporting on the American Jewish community. It is hard to see how its editors could be mistaken about such an important issue or why they would lie about it. And they never issued a retraction. We can therefore assume that the writers of this editorial knew what they were talking about: key groups in the lobby supported the war. Reasonable people can disagree about how important their influence was, of course, but at a minimum these groups reinforced the Bush administration’s resolve and made it less likely that other politicians or commentators would conduct a serious debate about the wisdom of the invasion.
Finally, it bears reiterating that I am talking about key groups and individuals in the Israel lobby, and not about the American Jewish community in toto. Indeed, my co-author and I have repeatedly pointed to surveys showing that American Jews were less supportive of the decision to invade Iraq than the American population as a whole, and we have emphasized that it would be a cardinal error (as well as dangerous) to try to “blame the Jews” for the war. Rather, blame should be reserved for Bush and Cheney (who made the ultimate decision for war), for the neoconservatives who dreamed up this foolish idea, and for the various groups and individuals — including those in the lobby — who helped sell it.
Nor am I suggesting that these individuals advocated this course because they thought it would be good for Israel but bad for the United States. Rather, they unwisely believed it would be good for both countries. And as we all know, they were tragically wrong.
That misconception helps us understand why the Israelis and their American friends who promoted the Iraq war didn’t do a better job of covering their tracks and obscuring their enthusiasm for the endeavor. I suspect it is because they genuinely believed that the war would be easy and would bring great benefits for both Israel and the United States. If the war was a smashing success, then they would reap the credit and no one would spend that much time probing the war’s origins. And even if someone did, its proponents would be hailed as strategic geniuses who had conceived and planned a stunning victory. Once the war went south, however, and numerous people began to probe how this disaster came about, an extensive dust-kicking operation to veil the role of Israel and the lobby was set in motion.
This campaign won’t work, however, because too many people already know that Israel and the lobby were cheerleaders for the war and with the passage of time, more and more evidence of their influence on the decision for war will leak out. The situation is analogous to what happened with the events surrounding the infamous Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in August 1964. The Johnson administration could dissemble and cover its tracks for a few years, but eventually the real story got out, as will happen with Iraq. Indeed, Blair’s testimony is evidence of that process at work.
For sure, many Israelis and their friends in the United States will continue to maintain that the Sharon government actually tried to stop the march to war and that groups in the lobby – including AIPAC — stayed on the sideline and did not push for war. But these post hoc fairy tales will be increasingly hard to sell to the American people, not only because there is a growing body of evidence which directly contradicts them (see pp. 261-262) , but also because the internet and the blogosphere is allowing the word to spread. Thankfully, we no longer have to rely on the mainstream media to get the story straight.
Finally, let’s not forget that while the Iraq war has been a disaster for the United States, it has also been very bad for Israel, not just because its principal patron has been stuck in a quagmire in Iraq, but also because the biggest winner from the war was Iran, which is the country that Israel fears most. All of this shows that despite the lobby’s openly-stated commitment to promoting policies that it thinks will benefit Israel, it did not work out that way with the Iraq war. Nor is it working out that way with its unyielding support of Israel’s self-destructive drive to colonize the Occupied Territories, a process that is turning Israel into an apartheid state. And the same warning applies to its efforts to keep all options-including the use of force — “on the table” vis-à-vis Iran.
Given all the problems that the lobby’s prescriptions have produced in recent years, you’d think U.S. leaders would have learned to ignore its advice. But there’s little sign of that so far, which means that these past errors are likely to be repeated. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The lessons of Iraq have been ignored. The target is now Iran
The US military buildup in the Gulf and Blair’s promotion of war against Tehran are a warning of yet another catastrophe
Wednesday 3 February 2010 21.00 GM
We were supposed to have learned the lessons of the Iraq war. That’s what Britain’s Chilcot inquiry is meant to be all about. But the signs from the Middle East are that it could be happening all over again. The US is escalating the military build-up in the Gulf, officials revealed this week, boosting its naval presence and supplying tens of billions of dollars’ worth of new weapons systems to allied Arab states.
The target is of course Iran. Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain are all taking deliveries of Patriot missile batteries. In Saudi Arabia, Washington is sponsoring a 30,000-strong force to protect oil installations and ports. The UAE alone has bought 80 F16 fighters, and General Petraeus, the US commander, claims it could now “take out the entire Iranian airforce”.
The US insists the growing militarisation is defensive, aimed at deterring Iran, calming Israel and reassuring its allies. But the shift of policy is clear enough. Last week Barack Obama warned that Iran would face “growing consequences” for failing to halt its nuclear programme, while linking it with North Korea – as George Bush did, in his “axis of evil” speech in 2002.
When Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week renewed Iran’s earlier agreement to ship most of its enriched uranium abroad to be reprocessed, the US was dismissive. Obama’s “outstretched hand”, always combined with the threat of sanctions or worse, appears to have been all but withdrawn.
The US vice-president, Joe Biden, underlined that by insisting Iran’s leaders were “sowing the seeds of their own destruction”. And in Israel, which has vowed to take whatever action is necessary to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, threats of war against its allies, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas, are growing. “We must recruit the whole world to fight Ahmadinejad,” Israeli president Shimon Peres declared on Tuesday.
The echoes of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq are unmistakable. Just as in 2002-3, we are told that a dictatorial Middle Eastern state is secretly developing weapons of mass destruction, defying UN resolutions, obstructing inspections, threatening its neighbours and supporting terrorism.
As in the case of Iraq, no evidence has been produced to back up the WMD claims, though bogus leaks about secret programmes are regularly reproduced in the mainstream press. Most recently, a former CIA official reported that US intelligence believed documents, published in the Times, purporting to show Iran planning to experiment on a “neutron initiator” for an atomic weapon, had been forged. Shades of Iraq’s non-existent attempts to buy uranium in Niger.
In case anyone missed the parallels, Tony Blair hammered them home at the Iraq inquiry last Friday. Far from showing remorse about the bloodshed he helped unleash on the Iraqi people, the former prime minister was allowed to turn what was supposed to be a grilling into a platform for war against Iran.
In a timely demonstration that neoconservatism is alive and well and living in London, Blair attempted to use the fact that Iraq had no WMD as part of a case for taking the same approach against Iran. Perceived intention and potential capability were enough to justify war, it turned out. Mentioning Iran 58 times, he explained that the need to “deal” with Iran raised “very similar issues to the ones we are discussing”.
You might think that the views of a man that 37% of British people now believe should be put on trial for war crimes would be treated with contempt. But Blair remains the Middle East envoy of the Quartet – the US, UN, EU and Russia – even as he pockets £1m a year from a UAE investment fund currently negotiating a slice of the profits from the exploitation of Iraqi oil reserves.
Nor is he alone in pressing the case for war on Iran. Another neocon outrider from the Bush era, Daniel Pipes, wrote this week that the only way for Obama to save his presidency was to “bomb Iran” and destroy the country’s “nuclear-weapon capacity”, entailing few politically troublesome US “boots on the ground” or casualties.
The reality is that such an attack would be potentially even more devastating than the aggression against Iraq. Iran has the ability to deliver armed retaliation, both directly and through its allies, which would not only engulf the region but block the 20% of global oil supplies shipped through the straits of Hormuz. It would also certainly set back the cause of progressive change in Iran.
Iran is a divided authoritarian state, now cracking down harshly on the opposition. But it is not a dictatorship in the Saddam Hussein mould. Unlike Iraq, Israel, the US and Britain, Iran has not invaded and occupied anybody’s territory, but has the troops of two hostile, nuclear-armed powers on its borders. And for all Ahmadinejad’s inflammatory rhetoric, it is the nuclear-armed US and Israel that maintain the option of an attack on Iran, not the other way round.
Nor has the UN nuclear agency, the IAEA, found any evidence that Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons, while the US’s own national intelligence estimate found that suspected work on a weapons programme had stopped in 2003, though that may now be adjusted in the new climate. Iran’s leadership has long insisted it does not want nuclear weapons, even while many suspect it may be trying to become a threshold nuclear power, able to produce weapons if threatened. Given the recent history of the region, that would hardly be surprising.
For the US government, as during the Bush administration, the real problem is Iran’s independent power in the most sensitive region in the world – heightened by the Iraq war. The signals coming out of Washington are mixed. The head of US National Intelligence implied on Tuesday there was nothing the US could do to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons if it chose to do so. Perhaps the military build-up in the Gulf is just sabre rattling. The preference is clearly for regime change rather than war.
But Israel is most unlikely to roll over if that option fails, and the risks of the US and its allies, including Britain, being drawn into the fallout from any attack would be high. As was discovered in the case of Iraq, the views of outriders like Blair and Pipes can quickly become mainstream. If we are to avoid a replay of that catastrophe, pressure to prevent war with Iran will have to start now.
The Chilcot Inquiry: Britain’s 9/11 Commission