By Ryan McGreal
Published March 13, 2007
US House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has been working hard to bring a majority of Representatives around to her bill, which would tie the US$105 billion war-funding bill to a provision that the Bush administration withdraw its troops from Iraq by August 2008.
It was a tough sell. It seems every Democratic Representative had a different provision to tack on in exchange for support, and many of those provisions were antithetical to one another.
Liberal Democrats felt it didn't go far enough to compel the administration to adhere to the timeline. Conservative Democrats felt that Congress shouldn't try to 'micromanage' the war.
Jim McDermott (D-Washington) insisted that it prohibit the administration from attacking Iran without Congressional authorization, an authorization the Bush administration believes it does not need.
Conservative Democrats demanded that McDermott's provision be stricken from the bill, presumably because they haven't read the US Constitution.
Yesterday the Associated Press reported that Pelosi and her backers caved into the demand by conservatives and pulled out McDermott's provision.
Cenk Uygur, a commentator on the HuffingtonPost blog, weighted in on AIPAC in an essay that also rips into the Democrats for giving in. He said it better than I could have, so I'll just excerpt his remarks:
These days the Israeli lobby no longer lobbies for Israel. They lobby for the most right-wing, war-mongering part of the Israeli government. They don't represent the Israeli people or the whole government. They certainly don't represent what's in Israel's best interest. They only represent hard right-wing, Likud politics.
If they represented what was in Israel's best interest, why on God's green earth would they have lobbied for the Iraq War? All that war has done is destabilize the region, created more Sunni and Shiite extremists - both of whom hate Israel, and strengthened Iran. The Iraq War has been an utter disaster for Israel. And yet the so-called Israeli lobby lobbied for it.
Now, they are doing the same with Iran. And if you thought the Iraq War turned out badly for Israel, wait till you get a load of the Iran War.
Who knew that it would be so difficult for the elected representatives of the majority party to follow the will of the majority of US citizens in curtailing the warmongering of the reckless president and his administration?
This is why the Democratic Party barely won the last election instead of sweeping it: unlike the Republicans, who know exactly what they want and successfully manage their various constituencies (chiefly wealthy economic conservatives and dogmatic social conservatives), the Democrats are torn between their commitment to the public and their entanglements in the sources of US corporate and political power.
Deathly afraid of taking a stand that might alienate independents or turn out to be unpopular, the Democrats end up losing popularity anyway by disappointing their constituents and confirming the Republican accusation that they're simply opportunists.
This leaves them susceptible to organizations like AIPAC, which have surprisingly strong and enduring sway over US politics out of a combination of deep pockets (it reportedly has an annual budget of US$65 million), broad reach, and considerable political savvy.
AIPAC started out essentially non-partisan but, as Uygur notes, has tilted by degrees to the right. Today it respresents the Likud/Kadima wing of Israeli politics and the Republican wing of American politics and presses its interests through a combination of "education" programs for elected officials and old-fashioned intimidation.
Juan Cole, a scholar of modern Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan, wrote about AIPAC in August 2004:
Ultimately, this all rests on the assumption that Iran is an enemy of the US and Israel and that Bush needs the latitude to respond quickly and effectively to Iran's threats.
Note that over 80 percent of American Jews vote Democrat [and] that the majority of American Jews opposed the Iraq war (more were against it than in the general population) ... The Likudniks like to pretend that they represent American Jewry, but they do not. And they like to suggest that objecting to their policies is tantamount to anti-Semitism, which is sort of like suggesting that if you don't like Chile's former dictator Pinochet, you are bigoted against Latinos.
There's just one problem: Iran is not the USA's enemy (or Israel's, for that matter). Iran is not doing anything illegal or dangerous, is in full compliance with international law, and is not threatening anyone with anything.
These are amply demonstrated facts, despite the relentless, high-frequency feedback whine of anti-Iranian propaganda. The AIPAC claim that Bush needs the legislative freedom to act quickly to defend Israel against Iran is bogus.
Since I know someone's going to make it, let's put the "wiped off the map" remark to bed right now.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is regularly accused of saying, "Israel must be wiped off the map" - which would certainly be disconcerting if it were true. However, it's not.
The phrase he then used as I read it is "The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem (een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods) must [vanish from] from the page of time (bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad)."
Ahmadinejad was not making a threat, he was quoting a saying of Khomeini and urging that pro-Palestinian activists in Iran not give up hope - that the occupation of Jerusalem was no more a continued inevitability than had been the hegemony of the Shah's government.
Whatever this quotation from a decades-old speech of Khomeini may have meant, Ahmadinejad did not say that "Israel must be wiped off the map" with the implication that phrase has of Nazi-style extermination of a people. He said that the occupation regime over Jerusalem must be erased from the page of time.
Further, the quote is best understood in the context that Ahmadinejad is actually a figurehead, and that Iran's policy toward Israel is determined by the Ayatollah Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran. That policy was explained by Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran's representative to the IAEA:
[I]f in that region, the divine religion followers of the Jews, Christians and Muslims ... come with the Palestinians, homeless Palestinians, to come and through following the democratic process will decide on a government and live in peace as they were living a thousand years of coexistence of these divine religions, Iran will support because we are looking for and we support peaceful settlement of the whole issue and peaceful coexistence of these divine religions in the Middle East.
In other words, Iran believes everyone in Israel - Muslims, Jews, Christians, and every other religion - should be allowed to participate in a binding referendum on what form its government should take.
Finally, it's worth pointing out that Israel is oppressing the Palestinians in a number of unquestionably illegal ways, and has been since 1967. It's hard to tease Ahmadinejad's politics from his bigotry, since one reinforces the other, but you don't have to be an anti-Semite (I'm not one) to recognize that Israel really should end the regime occupying Palestine.
Iran has a long record of not being aggressive, expansionary, or threatening, despite over three solid decades of censure by the US (ever since the Revolution overthrew the US-imposed and -backed despot Shah Reza). Its real leadership is savvy and pragmatic enough not to launch an attack that would result in Iran's obliteration under an Israeli and/or US nuclear retaliation.
Ahmadinejad says what he thinks his base wants to hear. He actually miscalculated with his remark about Israel and lost a lot of popularity at home, mostly because Iranians know it has simply fed anti-Iranian sentiment in Israel and the US.
Of course, Iran doesn't want to be invaded and wants to be left alone to develop its nuclear program, of which there is no evidence that Iran plans to build weapons (and Iran allowed the IAEA full, unimpeded access to its facilities far beyond what is required under the Non Proliferation Treaty).
All in all, based on these considerations, I'm more disposed to believe that the Iranian government and its spokespeople mean what they say about not wanting a fight than I am to believe anything the Bush Administration or AIPAC says about the situation.
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