So what's the real reason we went to war against Iraq? Well there wasn't just one reason. There are several. The biggest is clearly oil. For generations that has been the main reason for the US power elite's mania about the Middle East. Oil is not only increasingly valuable, but world production may already be peaking and so control of this irreplaceable resource is a key lever of power. At the time of the Iraq invasion it was estimated that Iraq held $5 trillion dollars worth of oil.
There are other reasons for the war: dependence of the US economy on weapons sales, the insistence on privatizing economies with big state owned sectors, and the expectation that a massive shock and awe campaign would intimidate al Qaeda (and any others). However, one reason is rarely talked about, the influence that the Israeli government and its US admirers have over Middle East policy.
Is the hair standing up on your neck? Is this going to be some loony diatribe that "the Jews" run the USA? It isn't. Israel is just one of the factors in the mix. But the anti-war movement is foolish in the extreme to ignore to clout of Israel. If we're ever going to get the US out of Iraq we have to cut away all the entangling roots that keep it there.
Here's our argument in a nutshell: the Israeli government wanted an attack on Iraq, it exerts significant influence on the US government, and Israel takes this militaristic line because of the nature of Israeli society.
Point #1 The Israeli Government wanted the Invasion
Israel has been a strong opponent of the Saddam Hussein regime for decades. It attacked Iraq in 1981 blowing up its nuclear reactors. It wanted to take part in the 1991 war against Iraq. Iraq attacked Israel with missiles. Since that time Israel has kept a low profile with regard to Iraq, but there is ample evidence that shows that its government not only supported, but pressed for the Iraq invasion.
There are many passionate supporters of Israel in the US and they have banded together in powerful organizations to try to influence government policy. One such group is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). It is inspired by some of the most right-wing forces in Israeli society. Throughout the ‘90s AIPAC supported the sanctions on Iraq trade that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.
Now when the final decisions on whether to invade Iraq were being made in 2002 this is where Israel stood:
On April 26, 2002 columnist Akiva Eldar of the Israeli paper Ha'aretz wrote, "Israel has its own agenda in backing a US attack on Iraq. As Egypt and other Arab allies issue vehement warnings to dissuade Washington, Israel's fear is that the US will back off"
"Deputy Interior Minister Gideon Ezra suggested this week that a US attack on Iraq will help Israel impose a new order, sans Arafat, in the Palestinian territories. 'The more aggressive the attack is, the more it will help Israel against the Palestinians.'" Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 30, 2002
Haaretz which has been called the New York Times of Israel wrote on Nov. 14, 2002 "Israel is the only country to absolutely support the American decision [to attack Iraq], and has urged it to act, and quickly."
And Iraq was only the beginning. There's a NY Daily News columnist who the New Haven Register often features. He's name is Zev Chafets. He's an Israeli and American citizen and was once a high press official in the Israeli government. In November 2002 he wrote an op-ed that perfectly expressed the line of the Israeli government. He stated that Arab and Iranian societies were "irrational", that nothing could be done to improve their "mental health" and that weapons had to be taken away from all the "deranged" regimes. It was a shockingly racist analysis, but common among the Israeli far-right.
Clearly the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon wanted the US to attack Iraq.
Point #2 The Israeli government has important influence on US Middle East policy
The Israeli government has three groups of admirers in this country, first and most numerous are those Christians who believe Israeli domination of the Middle East is essential for bringing about the rapture and the end of the world, second, the American Jewish establishment which for years has supported the most right wing Israelis and third militarists who admire Israel's kick ass approach to dealing with Arabs. These forces have all congealed in the Bush Administration along with oil, and weapons makers.
The call for an outright invasion of Iraq was advanced in 1997 by a American group called The Project for a New American Century whose members were warm friends of Israel and future Bush appointees. Another such group that favored an attack was JINSA, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. Despite its name its members are not only Jews. Dick Cheney was a key member. So was Jeanne Kirkpatrick. These are some of the militaristic admirers of Israel. They’re often called neo-cons.
The Bush administration was tremendously impressed with Israeli militarist thinking. In "State of War" written in 2005 by New York Times national security reporter James Risen, he says that Bush officials often preferred to listen to Israeli intelligence officers rather than the CIA. "CIA analysts were often skeptical of Israeli intelligence reports, knowing that Mossad had very strong - even obvious - biases about the Arab world." After their visits, CIA officials would generally discount much of what the Israeli intelligence officers supplied, "Wolfowitz [Deputy Secretary of Defense] and other conservatives at the Pentagon became enraged by this practice," Risen writes.
Major Jewish political organizations and those Christians who also blindly support Israeli actions have well oiled political machines that lobby and fund US politicians. AIPAC is the most powerful. Each year it holds a convention and it is addressed by the President and Secretary of State and a host of other important officials. In 2003 the Washington Post reported that among the 5,000 in attendance at its convention were half of the US Senate and 1/3 of the House. No other lobby gets such attention. At its first convention after the Iraq invasion in 2004 its members gave President Bush 23 standing ovations as he bragged about the Iraq attack.
In summary the Israel has clout in the US
Point #3. Israel is bound to be militaristic because it oppresses Palestinians
Israel is in practice is a Jewish superiority state. It enshrines discrimination. Palestinian citizens in Israel can't buy or lease over 90% of the land. They have schools that are separate and unequal. In the Occupied Territories it's much worse. Palestinian communities there are cut off from each other by Jewish-only settlements, Jewish-only roads, Israeli army bases, and walls. This Jewish apartheid state sits in the middle of an overwhelming Arab Middle East whose main religion has deep ties to Jerusalem. How can Palestinians and other Arabs be expected to put up with this? They stand for it only if they are constantly beaten down by force, might, beatings and war. Israeli militarism is directly tied to the plight of the Palestinian people.
There are many Israeli Jewish groups and individuals who oppose Israeli militarism and discrimination. They write, they go to court, they demonstrate with Palestinians. Hundreds of Israeli soldiers have been punished or spent time in jail for refusing to brutalize Palestinians. The anti-war movement must be in solidarity with these forces.
What Does it All Mean for the Anti-War Movement?
* We have to talk about the militaristic influences from Israel just like we talk about oil and the other reasons for the war.
* We have to oppose the discrimination in Israeli society just as we oppose lack of human rights in countries like Saudi Arabia.
* Solidarity with Palestinian human rights and opposition to Israeli plans to bully the Middle East has to be one of the cornerstones of the anti-war movement.
Following a decade-long campaign to depict Iran as a grave and immediate threat, Israeli and US officials demand that Iran's nuclear weapons program be stopped. Key Israeli officials have suggested that Israel will bomb suspected Iranian nuclear sites. In June 2008 Israeli planes launched what the New York Times said was practice for such a bombing attack. US organizations, such as the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, openly push for a confrontation with Iran.
The leading Christian Zionist, Rev. James Hagee wants to bring on Armageddon and the end of the war by starting a war with Iran. He sees it as a way to spark a world war and the End of the World. Hagee is indeed powerful. His meetings are greeted by President Bush. Senator McCain embraced him until the spring of ’08. He then rejected his endorsement, but not because of Hagee’s mad idea to bring on World War III.
Iran denies it has a nuclear weapons program. In the fall of 2007 the US National Intelligence Estimate stated that Iran once had such a program, but ended it five years ago. Yet, even if Iran had nuclear weapons, it would not be a justification for attack. Israel itself possesses hundreds of nuclear weapons and has not even signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.
Iran’s President has made offensive statements which minimize the Holocaust. Yet clearly there is no evidence that Iran is preparing to attack Israel or that it even has the capability to do so. An attack on Iran at this time would be unprovoked and a grave violation of international law. The “moderate” proposal to “merely” have greater sanctions on Iran should also be rejected. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were murdered by the “peaceful” UN sanctions that were put into effect after the first Gulf War.
Nuclear weapons [and many would say nuclear power power plants] are grave dangers. Yet singling out Iran for attack or sanctions is obviously one-sided and bound to fail. Both Israel and Iran need to fully open all of their nuclear facilities to international inspection and to work for a Middle East that is free of nuclear weapons.
The Middle East Crisis Committee
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