The drums for war on Iran have been banging louder than ever lately, with a spate of articles by political commentators either directly encouraging the bombing of the Islamic Republic or otherwise offering a narrative in which this is effectively portrayed as the only option to prevent Iran from waging a nuclear holocaust against Israel. A prominent example of the latter is Jeffrey Goldberg’s article last month in the Atlantic magazine, “The Point of No Return”. Goldberg’s lengthy piece essentially boils down to this: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons poses an existential threat to Israel’s existence comparable to the Nazi Holocaust, and although the U.S. recognizes this threat, the Obama administration is weak, so Israel will have no choice but to act alone in bombing Iran to ensure its own survival.
Posts Tagged ‘Juan Cole’
By Juan Cole, ZNet, Feb 24, 2010
Juan Cole’s ZSpace Page
Gen. David Petraeus, a straight shooter, admitted on Meet the Press Sunday that the Afghanistan War will take years and incur high casualties. His implicit defense of President Obama from Dick Cheney on the issues of torture and closing Guantanamo will make bigger headlines, but sooner or later the American public will notice the admission. The country is now evenly divided between those who think the US can and should restore a modicum of stability before getting out, and those who want a quick withdrawal. The Marjah Campaign, the centerpiece of the new counter-insurgency strategy, is over a week old, and some assessment of this new, visible push by the US military in violent Helmand Province is in order.
Dick Cheney: “I guess my general sense of where we are with respect to Iraq and at the end of now, what, nearly six years, is that we’ve accomplished nearly everything we set out to do….”What has Dick Cheney really accomplished in Iraq?
Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His most recent book Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) has just been published. He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment.
American politicians aren’t reflecting the will of the American people, who aren’t nearly as pro-Israel as their political leaders.
WITH ISRAEL’S invasion into Gaza killing and injuring thousands, and turning the area into a humanitarian catastrophe, a tide of criticism and denunciation has risen against it around the world.
But there are a few places where Israel won’t hear a peep of criticism–on the contrary, it gets words of encouragement and statements of solidarity. Among them are the halls of the U.S. Congress, the Oval Office of the White House, and the offices of the U.S. president-elect.
Compared even to the level of criticism of the government in Israel itself, the one-sidedness of the pro-Israel cheerleading among members of the U.S. political establishment is astounding. Even expressions of concern for the humanitarian crisis facing Gaza are remarkably few among U.S. politicians.
As the respected Middle East expert Juan Cole put it in his Informed Comment blog:
If the U.S. legislators voted on the Gaza operation, they would support Israel except for the same 10 who objected to the war on Lebanon (the 10 are mostly from congressional districts with a lot of Arab-Americans). Israel will suffer no practical sanctions from any government.
President-elect Obama has remained largely silent on Gaza, claiming that because “American has only one president at a time,” he cannot issue statements that might contradict the current lame duck government’s policies.
But Obama is holding press conferences and giving YouTube addresses that are nothing if not critiques of the current administration’s policies on every other issue. And he was quick to rush out a denunciation of the terror attacks in Mumbai last month.
Behind this seeming reticence to comment on Gaza, we have good evidence that Israel has nothing to fear from an Obama administration.
Last January, Obama issued a letter to UN Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, urging him to oppose any resolution criticizing Israel’s siege of Gaza. “We have to understand why Israel is forced to do this,” the letter argued. “Israel has the right to respond while seeking to minimize any impact on civilians.”
During his campaign tour of the Middle East and Europe this summer, he visited Sderot, Israel, to express his support for Israelis targeted by rockets from Gaza. His comment at the time: “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”
In other words, we should have little doubt about what Obama would say if he were regularly issuing statements on Gaza. Although the press forced him to issue a bland statement of concern for civilian casualties in both Gaza and Israel on January 6, he has preferred to remain mum.
Obama’s silence is similar to the Bush administration’s “disengagement” (to use the favored word of foreign policy wonks) from the Israel-Palestine conflict–an assurance that Israel can do whatever it wants without any interference from Washington.
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WHAT EXPLAINS the bipartisan lockstep march behind the Israel Defense Forces?
It certainly isn’t because American politicians are reflecting the will of the American people, who are not nearly as pro-Israel as their political leaders are. Writing for Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald pointed to evidence from a Rasmussen Reports poll that:
strongly bolsters the severe disconnect I documented the other day between (a) American public opinion on U.S. policy towards Israel and (b) the consensus views expressed by America’s political leadership.
Not only does Rasmussen find that Americans generally “are closely divided over whether the Jewish state should be taking military action against militants in the Gaza Strip” (44-41 percent, with 15 percent undecided), but Democratic voters overwhelmingly oppose the Israeli offensive–by a 24-point margin (31-55 percent). By stark contrast, Republicans, as one would expect (in light of their history of supporting virtually any proposed attack on Arabs and Muslims), overwhelmingly support the Israeli bombing campaign (62-27 percent).
The most popular explanation usually given for the American elite’s pro-Israel bias is that it fears the wrath of the “Israel lobby.”
There is a powerful network of Zionist organizations–led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)–that donates money to pro-Israel candidates and lobbies the U.S. government on behalf of Israel. There’s nothing anti-Semitic about pointing this out. These groups are quite open about their activities, and they aren’t shy about touting their own influence.
But are these organizations and their lobbying efforts the reason why the U.S. supports Israel?
From a socialist point of view, the answer is no. Israel annually receives more than $3 billion in U.S. aid. Egypt runs second at around $2 billion. Yet no one would seriously claim that the aid Egypt receives is the result of an “Egyptian lobby.”
It’s no coincidence that Israel and Egypt are the two top recipients of U.S. aid. Both are important U.S. allies in the region where the lion’s share of the world’s oil is located.
Since the end of the Second World War, the U.S. has tied its “national security” to its access to and control of the flow of oil. That’s why the U.S. has given military and economic aid to prop up “friendly” states in the region–not only Israel, but Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf monarchies, too.
The U.S. puts Israel at the top of the list because its government and population form the only uniformly pro-U.S. state in the region. In countries like Egypt, pro-Western governments rule over restive populations that hate the U.S. government’s support for Israel and for their own oppressive regimes. Even the quisling government of U.S.-occupied Iraq isn’t completely reliable.
In the 1990s, the Bush I and Clinton governments pursued various “peace” initiatives with Israel and the Palestinians–most of them aimed at getting Palestinians to accept their own “bantustans” (the term for the fake Black homelands in South Africa under apartheid) as a means to the end of stability for the U.S. and Israel in the region. Those efforts ran their course, and the Bush II regime, operating under the rubric of its “war on terror,” simply let the Israeli government run amok.
These shifts in U.S. policy had nothing to do with the strength of the Israel lobby. They stemmed from changes inside the U.S. government’s foreign policy establishment. The U.S. government decides how much leeway Israel has, and this leeway defines how successful the “Israel lobby” will be.
As long as Israel remains central to U.S. imperialism in the Middle East, Israel will continue to receive U.S. backing and aid. That’s why Israel’s ace in the hole in Washington isn’t AIPAC, but the Pentagon, the CIA and the military-industrial complex. And as long as the national security establishment remains committed to Israel, elected politicians will provide the political cover that justifies the billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars that Israel receives.
Eric Ruder looks at the factors driving the seeming convergence of Barack Obama, the Bush administration and other players when it comes to Iraq–and what policy they are actually converging around.
Socialist Worker, July 25, 2008
IS THE end of the U.S. occupation of Iraq within sight?
In late July, newspaper headlines announced that the Bush administration and Iraqi officials had agreed on a “general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals” for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The fuzzy phraseology allows the Bush administration to deny that it had agreed to a “timetable” for withdrawal–something it has repeatedly denounced as “irresponsible” when advocated by Democrats.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama, who has promised to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq by late 2010 if he becomes president, captured the world’s attention with a whirlwind tour that took him to Baghdad for meetings with Iraqi politicians and U.S. military leaders.
Shortly before he arrived, an interview with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Germany’s Der Spiegel made headlines because Maliki basically endorsed Obama’s 2010 timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops–and made the pointed remark that “he who wants to exit in a quicker way has a better assessment of the situation in Iraq.”
The sudden convergence of Obama, Maliki and the Bush administration on Iraq left Republican presidential candidate John McCain out in the cold. For months, he has attacked Obama for failing to understand what’s at stake in Iraq with his 16-month withdrawal proposal. But suddenly, McCain looks like the one who’s out of step–with the heads of state in both the U.S. and Iraq.
As news of Maliki’s praise of Obama sunk in, McCain stuck to his script. “The fact is, if we had done what Senator Obama wanted to do, we would have lost,” McCain said. “And we would have faced a wider war. And we would have had greater problems in Afghanistan and the entire region. And Iran would have increased their influence.”
That perfectly describes the situation that already exists–as a direct product of the U.S. war on Iraq.
At the same time, McCain might be trying to change direction. “If there is any fixed position in John McCain’s policy agenda, it’s that we must never, ever, set a timetable for leaving Iraq,” observed the Chicago Tribune’s Steve Chapman. “So it was a surprise to hear him say Monday [July 21], when asked if our troops might depart in the next two years, ‘Oh, I think they could be largely withdrawn, as I’ve said.’”