"It Doesn't Get Any Worse Than That, Ray"
By WILLIAM A. COOK
VRay Suarez (PBS News Hour Reporter, October 2, 2007): "You're saying that the national legislature of this country, rather than doing the will of the citizens of the United States, passed that Iran resolution, sanctioning the Republican Guard, because of the American-Israeli Political Action Committee?"
Mike Gravel (Democratic Presidential Candidate): "Wait a second. They'll (sic) be some information coming out about how this thing was drafted. So the answer is yes, the short answer. ... This is what's at stake with this resolution. And it's the height of immorality, irresponsibility, and the United States Senate, with the Democrats in charge, voted for the passage of this resolution. It doesn't get any worse than that, Ray.".
In asking his question, Ray Suarez implies that our Senators capitulated to the desires of AIPAC, knowing their vote negated the expressed will of the American people. Gravel, once a Senator from Alaska during the Vietnam War period, answers unhesitatingly, "yes," the short answer is yes. The obvious follow-up question would appear to be: "Why do you think that our Senators would vote against the expressed wishes of their constituents in favor of a special interest lobby?" It was never asked. Fortunately, Sy Hersh, in an interview with Amy Goodman that same day, responded to a question posed by Goodman, a question drawn from a Gravel criticism of Hillary Clinton for having voted for this resolution. Goodman pointed to the 76 votes in favor, both Republican and Democrat, asking Hersh to respond to Gravel's critique: "This is fantasy land," Gravel commented, "We're talking about ending the war. My god, we're just starting a war right today. There was a vote in the Senate today. Joe Lieberman, who authored the Iraq resolution, has authored another resolution, and it is essentially a fig leaf to let George Bush go to war with Iran. And I want to congratulate Biden for voting against it, Dodd for voting against it, and I'm ashamed of you, Hillary, for voting for it. You're not going to get another shot at this, because what's happened, if this war ensues, we invade, and they're looking for an excuse to do it." Goodman's question is simple enough, why would 76 senators vote for such a resolution. Hersh's response: "Money. A lot of the Jewish money from New York. Come on, let's not kid about it. A significant percentage of Jewish money, and many leading American Jews support the Israeli position that Iran is an existential threat. And I think it is as simple as that. ... That's American politics circa 2007."
Gravel understands the consequences of giving Cheney and Bush the freedom to attack Iran's Republican Guard as a terrorist organization rather than as the legally constituted military of the state existing to protect the citizens of that state. They need no act of Congress to attack a terrorist organization and, citing the Encarta encyclopedia description of terrorism, "These violent acts are committed by non-governmental groups or individuals that is by those who are neither part of or officially serving in the military forces ...," they have defanged the definition of terrorism as it cannot be applied to a nation state. Cheney and Bush are now free to invade Iran to wipe out the terrorist organization harbored by that country. Why pretend that an established arm of the government of Iran is a terrorist organization when the opposite is so evident? Because Cheney and Bush and their Neo-con/AIPAC alliance have not been able to convince the American people of the threat to the US should Iran eventually acquire nuclear capability. The Kyl-Lieberman resolution gives this administration license to attack Iran using the original resolution passed by the Congress for the invasion of Afghanistan since Iran now harbors terrorists that threaten America.
How serious is this possibility we might ask. Newsweek carried an article in the October 1 issue about Israel's "secret" raid on Syria. In it, Sam Gardiner, a former Air Force Colonel, seen as an expert in simulation of military exercises, makes this observation: "Even if Israel goes it alone (attacks Iran's nuclear facilities), we will be blamed (the United States). Hence we would see retaliation against U.S. interests." In short, the United States is tied to Israel and its interests by an umbilical cord that determines how and when we go to war and with whom. Iran is Israel's primary nemesis as well as its primary target. The "mysterious raid deep in Syria" magnifies this point; only the media control created by "a nearly impenetrable wall of silence around the operation" has kept the American public from understanding the potential consequences of the Kyl-Lieberman resolution that passed October 2, only a month after Israel's "raid." Should Syria have responded to this unwarranted aggression by a missile or bomb attack on Israel, the U.S. Congress would have been forced to determine how to respond. With the Kyl-Lieberman resolution in place, only Bush has to respond by citing the Iranian terrorist organization's ties to Syria and especially to Hezbollah. A threat to Israel is a threat to the U.S.
It is this reality that makes the recent study by Mearsheimer and Walt so dangerous to the Israeli lobbies, especially AIPAC. Indeed, they define AIPAC by encompassing the multitude of Jewish lobbies under that umbrella while adding in non-Jewish Neo-cons, Christian evangelicals of the far right and other sympathizers.
Gravel's awareness of this threat as expressed to PBS represents the rare occurrence when the reality of our total support for Israel's interests is aired in public. An objective consideration of the "raid" of September 6, 2007 by the Israeli Air Force against Syria as it would have been reported in the American press had it been Syria attacking Israel would not have been headlined "The Whispers of War." Indeed that report did not focus on Israel's disregard for international law or its consequences, but rather on how Israel can deliver nuclear or standard bombs as far as Iran. It went further to turn this unprovoked operation to Israel's cause by noting how that state's very existence is threatened by one atomic bomb, thus presenting Israel as the potential victim not the perpetrator of an action contrary to the United Nations' charter. Had Syria attacked Israel, the explosiveness of such an unprovoked and uncalled for attack against an innocent country would have made front page headlines and the cover of all our news magazines. Yet Israel's unprovoked and uncalled for attack on Syria is presented in U.S. News as "Israel takes a swipe at Syria," hardly an item that would make the American people aware that they were at risk for their ally's illegal action against a neighbor. And as if that were not enough, the significance of one nation bombing another without provocation becomes only the 10% hike in Ehud Olmert's ratings as opposed to the death and destruction caused by this illegal action with an accompanying photo, not of the death and destruction, but of Olmert giving blood for his countrymen. No outcry follows this despicable behavior by the Teflon state not from the United States, not from the United Nations, not from the EU, not from NATO. Only silence.
Consider for example the consequences of Israel using its United States' gifts of nuclear bunker buster bombs on Syria or Iran, both possible scenarios as this "raid" ( the name of an insect repellent) makes clear: "... huge amounts of radioactive material will be lofted into the air to contaminate the people of Iran and surrounding countries ... This fallout will induce cancers, leukemia, and genetic disease in these populations for years to come, both a medical catastrophe and a war crime of immense proportions,"(Dr. Helen Caldicott, Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer.) No outcry, only silence. Why?
What does AIPAC's control of our Congress mean for the American people? Arguably, that influence propelled the U.S. into war against Iraq with its inevitable consequences in death, destruction and debt leaving the nation bereft of a resolution; it has solidified perception around the world that Israel's defiance of the UN resolutions demanding that it obey international law regarding right of return for Palestinians and return of occupied territory is not just condoned by the U.S. but is the policy of the U.S., making the United States a co-partner in international crime; it has made Israel's illegal treatment of the Palestinians in its indiscriminate killing of children and women, in its use of extrajudicial assassination, in its imprisonment of a whole people resulting in extreme poverty, malnutrition, and disease, in its total control of the lives of these people who have no recourse to overcome the occupation since they have no means to do so, practices condoned by the United States, and turned the U.S. from a compassionate and morally responsible nation to one that is amoral and hypocritical; and, in absolute despair, it has placed America on the thresh hold of one more devastating war against a people that has done nothing against the United States, has not occupied another nations's territory, has not invaded another nation, and has signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, all actions that are diametrically opposed to those of our client state, Israel. Such is the sell out by our representatives of their constituents as they grovel, unlike Mike Gravel, before the insidious lobby that controls our fate. No outcry, only silence. Why?
Ultimately the question comes back to why those 76 senators voted for a resolution that "wipes the desires of the American people off the map," to borrow an intentionally falsified and reiterated translation of the Iranian President's message to his people. But those 76 are not alone. Virtually everyone of our representatives are subservient to the same lobbies, passing on average 100 resolutions per year favorable to Israel and written by the lobbyists, obsequiously fawning before AIPAC's annual meeting where its very existence is touted as of "significant benefit for both the United States and Israel," and where no one dares to question or criticize the state of Israel lest they suffer the fate of those who have, and lose their seats in Congress. This one might argue is coercion. Can it be documented? One need only research the congressional and senate races that put Paul Findley, Cynthia McKenny, Charles Percy and the few other renegades that dared to be critical of Israel out of their positions. "The handful of members of Congress who have been critical of Israel over the last 40 years have been publicly chastised with a figurative dunce cap or, worse, lost their seats to AIPAC-backed opponents" (NewsMax.com, May 1, 2006. "Israel the Third Rail of American Foreign Policy," Arnaud de Borchgrava, Editor at large of the Washington Times).
Interestingly, the United States defines terrorism (18 USC 2331) as "violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that ... appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnaping." Could one not make a case that our Congress in its total support for Israeli policies regardless of their negative impact on the country and its disregard for the expressed desires of its citizens as the Kyl-Lieberman resolution demonstrates is "influenced" by "intimidation and coercion" by these lobbies? Add to this reality the influence they wield in our media where they limit the perception of the public to the lies and mythologies they present that justifies the actions of the Israeli state, and the pervasiveness of the lobbies prevents the American people from controlling their own destinies. Does that not make them terrorists residing on K street in our nation's capitol?
Isn't it obvious today that the direction of America's policies regarding Iran, and our almost certain to be pre-emptive invasion of this nation on behalf of Israel, is directed by the same coterie of men who pushed us into the disastrous war against Iraq -- Podhoretz, Wurmser, Perle, Feith, Crystal, Kagan, Krouthammer, Abrams and others too numerous to mention, the hounds of war that find no guilt in sending the sons and daughters of others to fight the wars they wage so eloquently in their heads as they sit in front of their computers guiding to their deaths those they never met.
The Hounds of War are gathered round
To forge the battle plan,
They pat each other on the back,
And grasp their fellow's hand.
To battle stations they disperse
To carry on the fray,
These warriors of the word sublime
That makes us weep or pray.
They swing behind the keyboard now
That spits out their deceit;
Their goal, the end they desire,
That makes their life complete.
These victors suffer no regrets
As they pen brilliant epithets,
And so they ply their lonely craft,
And carve another's epitaph.
William Cook is a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California and author of Tracking Depception: Bush's Mideast Policy. He can be reached at: cookb@ULV.EDU
October 6, 2007
So Who's Afraid of the Israel Lobby?
by Ray McGovern
Who's afraid of the Israel Lobby? Virtually everyone: Republican, Democrat – Conservative, Liberal. The fear factor is non-partisan, you might say, and palpable. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) brags that it is the most influential foreign policy lobbying organization on Capitol Hill, and has demonstrated that time and again – and not only on Capitol Hill.
Seldom has the Lobby's power been as clearly demonstrated as in its ability to suppress the awful truth that on June 8, 1967, during the Six Day War:
* Israel deliberately attacked the intelligence collection ship USS Liberty, in full awareness it was a U.S. Navy ship, and did its best to sink it and leave no survivors;
* The Israelis would have succeeded had they not broken off the attack upon learning, from an intercepted message, that the commander of the U.S. 6th Fleet had launched carrier fighters to the scene; and
* By that time 34 of the Liberty's crew had been killed and over 170 wounded.
Scores of intelligence analysts and senior officials have known this for years. That virtually all of them have kept a forty-year frightened silence is testament to the widespread fear of touching this live wire. Even more telling is the fact that the National Security Agency apparently has destroyed voice tapes and transcripts heard and seen by many intelligence analysts, material that shows beyond doubt that the Israelis knew exactly what they were doing.
The Ugly Truth
But the truth will come out – eventually. All it took in this case was for a courageous journalist (an endangered species) to listen to the surviving crew and do a little basic research, not shrinking from naming war crimes and not letting senior U.S. officials, from the president on down, off the hook for suppressing – even destroying – damning evidence from intercepted Israeli communications.
The mainstream media have now published an exposé based largely on interviews with those most intimately involved. A lengthy article by Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter John Crewdson appeared in the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun on Oct. 2 titled "New revelations in attack on American spy ship." To the subtitle goes the prize for understatement of the year: "Veterans, documents suggest U.S., Israel didn't tell full story of deadly 1967 incident."
Better 40 years late than never, I suppose. Many of us have known of the incident and cover-up for a very long time and have tried to expose and discuss it for the lessons it holds for today. It has proved far easier, though, to get a very pedestrian Dog-Bites-Man article published than an article with the importance and explosiveness of this sensitive story.
A Marine Stands Up
On the evening of Sept. 26, 2006, I gave a talk on Iraq to an overflow crowd of 400 at National Avenue Church in Springfield, Missouri. A questioner asked what I thought of the study by John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard titled The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. The study had originally been commissioned by The Atlantic Monthly. When the draft arrived, however, shouts of "Leper!" were heard at the Atlantic. The monthly wasted no time in saying thanks-but-no-thanks, and the leper-study then wandered in search of a home, finding none among American publishers. Eventually the London Review of Books published it in March 2006.
I had read that piece carefully and found it an unusual act of courage as well as scholarship. That's what I told the questioner, adding that I did have two problems with the study:
First, it seemed to me the authors erred in attributing virtually all the motivation for the U.S. attack on Iraq to the Israel Lobby and the so-called "neoconservatives" running our policy and armed forces. Was Israel an important factor? Indeed. But of equal importance, in my view, was the oil factor and what the Pentagon now calls the "enduring" military bases in Iraq, which the White House and Pentagon decided were needed for the U.S. to dominate that part of the Middle East.
Second, I was intrigued by the fact that Mearsheimer and Walt made no mention of what I believe to be, if not the most telling, then perhaps the most sensational proof of the power the Lobby knows it can exert over our government and Congress. In sum, in June 1967, after deliberately using fighter-bombers and torpedo boats to attack the USS Liberty for over two hours in an attempt to sink it and kill its entire crew, and then getting the U.S. government, the Navy, and the Congress to cover up what happened, the Israeli government learned that it could – literally – get away with murder.
I found myself looking out at 400 blank stares. The USS Liberty? And so I asked how many in the audience had heard of the attack on the Liberty on June 8, 1967. Three hands went up; I called on the gentleman nearest me.
Ramrod straight he stood:
"Sir, Sergeant Bryce Lockwood, United States Marine Corps, retired. I am a member of the USS Liberty crew, Sir."
Catching my breath, I asked him if he would be willing to tell us what happened.
"Sir, I have not been able to do that. It is hard. But it has been almost 40 years, and I would like to try this evening, Sir."
You could hear a pin drop for the next 15 minutes, as Lockwood gave us his personal account of what happened to him, his colleagues, and his ship on the afternoon of June 8, 1967. He was a linguist assigned to collect communications intelligence from the USS Liberty, which was among the ugliest – and most easily identifiable – ships in the fleet with antennae springing out in all directions.
Lockwood told of the events of that fateful day, beginning with the six-hour naval and air surveillance of the Liberty by the Israeli navy and air force on the morning of June 8. After the air attacks including thousand-pound bombs and napalm, three sixty-ton torpedo boats lined up like a firing squad, pointing their torpedo tubes at the Liberty's starboard hull. Lockwood had been ordered to throw the extremely sensitive cryptological equipment overboard and had just walked beyond the bulwark separating the NSA intelligence unit from the rest of the ship when, he recalled, he sensed a large black object, a tremendous explosion, and sheet of flame. The torpedo had struck dead center in the NSA space.
The cold, oily water brought Lockwood back to consciousness. Around him were 25 dead colleagues; but he heard moaning. Three were still alive; one of Lockwood's shipmates dragged one survivor up the hatch. Lockwood was able to lift the two others, one-by-one, onto his shoulder and carry them up through the hatch. This meant alternatively banging on the hatch for someone to open it and swimming back to fish his shipmate out of the water lest he float out to sea through the 39-foot hole made by the torpedo.
At that Lockwood stopped speaking. It was enough. Hard, very hard – even after almost 40 years.
What Else We Know
John Crewdson's meticulously documented article, together with the 57 pages that James Bamford devotes to the incident in his book Body of Secrets and recent confessions by those who played a role in the cover-up, paint a picture that the surviving crew of the USS Liberty can only find infuriating. The evidence, from intercepted communications as well as testimony, of Israeli deliberate intent is unimpeachable, even though the Israelis continue to portray the incident as merely a terrible mistake.
Crewdson refers to U.S. Navy Captain Ward Boston, who was the Navy lawyer appointed as senior counsel to Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, named by Admiral John S. McCain (Sen. John McCain's father) to "inquire into all the facts and circumstances." The fact that they were given only one week to gather evidence and were forbidden to contact the Israelis screams out "cover-up."
Captain Boston, now 84, signed a formal declaration on Jan. 8, 2004 in which he described himself as "outraged at the efforts of the apologists for Israel in this country to claim that this attack was a case of ‘mistaken identity.'" Boston continued:
"The evidence was clear. Both Admiral Kidd and I believed with certainty that this attack...was a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew...Not only did the Israelis attack the ship with napalm, gunfire, and missiles, Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunned three lifeboats that had been launched in an attempt by the crew to save the most seriously wounded – a war crime...I know from personal conversations I had with Admiral Kidd that President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered him to conclude that the attack was a case of 'mistaken identity' despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary."
Why the Israelis decided to take the draconian measure of sinking a ship of the U.S. Navy is open to speculation. One view is that the Israelis did not want the U.S. to find out they were massing troops to seize the Golan Heights from Syria, and wanted to deprive the U.S. of the opportunity to argue against such a move. Another theory: James Bamford, in Body of Secrets," adduces evidence, including reporting from an Israeli journalist eyewitness and an Israeli military historian, of wholesale killing of Egyptian prisoners of war at the coastal town of El Arish in the Sinai. The Liberty was patrolling directly opposite El Arish in international waters but within easy range to pick up intelligence on what was going on there. And the Israelis were well aware.
As for the why, well, someone could at least approach the Israelis involved and ask, no? The important thing here is not to confuse what is known (the deliberate nature of the Israeli attack) with the purpose behind it, which remains a matter of speculation.
Bowing to intense pressure from the Navy, the White House agreed to award the Liberty's skipper, Captain William McGonagle, the Medal of Honor....but not at the White House, and not by the president (as is the custom). Rather, the Secretary of the Navy gave the award at the Washington Navy Yard on the banks of the acrid Anacostia River. A naval officer involved in the awards ceremony told one of the Liberty crew, "The government is pretty jumpy about Israel...the State Department even asked the Israeli ambassador if his government had any objections to McGonagle getting the medal."
Adding insult to injury, those of the Liberty crew who survived well enough to call for an independent investigation have been hit with charges of, you guessed it, anti-Semitism.
Now that some of the truth is emerging more and more, others are showing more courage in speaking out. In a recent email, an associate of mine who has followed Middle East affairs for almost 60 years, shared the following:
"The chief of the intelligence analysts studying the Arab/Israeli region at the time told me about the intercepted messages and said very flatly and firmly that the pilots reported seeing the American flag and repeated their requests for confirmation of the attack order. Whole platoons of Americans saw those intercepts. If NSA now says they do not exist, then someone ordered them destroyed."
Leaving the destruction of evidence without investigation is an open invitation to repetition in the future.
As for the larger picture, visiting Israel this past summer I was constantly told that Egypt forced Israel into war in June 1967. This does not square with the unguarded words of Menachem Begin in 1982, when he was Israel's prime minister. Rather he admitted publicly:
"In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [Egyptian President] Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him."
Israel had, in fact, prepared well militarily and mounted provocations against its neighbors, in order to provoke a response that could be used to justify an expansion of its borders. Israel's illegal 40-year control over and confiscation of land in the occupied territories and U.S. enabling support (particularly the one-sided support by the current U.S. administration) go a long way toward explaining why it is that 1.3 billion Muslims "hate us."
Zionism, Irrelevant Within A Generation