Saturday, March 31, 2007

Syria in the Crosshairs

Why would the US be interested in destabilizing Syria right now? We have seen that what often follows autocratic regimes is not favorable to US interests. We have also seen that we cannot impose democracy in middle eastern countries. It just leads to chaos, death and destruction.

Maybe that is what they really want?

And it is also amazing how the clean break paper continue to be the template for action in the middle east. You would think they would try to be subtler.

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration has launched a campaign to isolate and embarrass Syrian President Bashar Assad, using parliamentary elections in late April as a lever, according to State Department officials and Syrian exiles.

The campaign, which some officials fear is aimed at destabilizing Syria, has been in the works for months.

It involves escalating attacks on Syria's human rights record, which is generally regarded as abysmal, as well as White House-approved support for Syrian bloggers and election monitors inside and outside the country to highlight the nation's lack of freedom, the officials and others said.


The campaign appears to fly in the face of the recommendations last December of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which urged President Bush to engage diplomatically with Syria to stabilize Iraq and address the Arab-Israeli conflict. The White House largely ignored that recommendation, agreeing only to talk with Syria about Iraqi refugees and to attend a Baghdad conference where envoys from Iran and Syria were present.

Some officials who are aware of the campaign say they fear its real aim is to weaken or even overthrow Assad and to ensure that he can't thwart the creation of an international tribunal to investigate the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. A U.N. report has implicated Syrian and Lebanese officials in the murder.

The officials say the campaign bears the imprint of Elliott Abrams, a conservative White House aide in charge of pushing Bush's global democracy agenda.

The plan's defenders say the effort to support democracy and speak out against repression in Syria is no different from similar U.S. efforts aimed at governments in Cuba, Iran, Zimbabwe and elsewhere.


The officials say the campaign bears the imprint of [Neocon] Elliott Abrams, a conservative White House aide in charge of pushing Bush's global democracy agenda.

Yeah, this Elliot Abrams.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The NYT Propaganda Machine

Mary Wheeler has some strong statements for the NYT and their latest attempt to cover up the criminal reporting by Judith Miller prior to the invasion of Iraq.

But the cry [of impatience with reporter privilege] rings false, Max. You don't understand the issues at hand. For example, it's not that we liberals have lost patience for reporters privilege. And our eagerness to have Judy testify came not just from a desire to see Cheney and Libby exposed.

Rather, it comes from a desire to see you [the NYT] exposed. It is time that the NYT stops pretending that it stands on the side of the public, as passive unwilling dupes of this Administration. It is time that the NYT stops laughing off the role of Miller and Gordon and Tyler and Raines and Keller and now Frankel in bringing this country to war on a pack of lies. It is time the NYT stops claiming these were leaks, rather than willful cooperation in the publication of propaganda.

Given that Bill Clinton was impeached for something quite silly, I don't see any problem with Libby going to jail for "just" perjury.

However, it was clearly much more than just perjury. It was true obstruction of justice, as she explains in the article.

Huffington Post

Monday, March 26, 2007

Right to Exist

From an LA Times editorial.

Actually, it asks even more. Israel wants the Palestinians, half of whom were driven from their homeland so that a Jewish state could be created in 1948, to recognize not merely that it exists (which is undeniable) but that it is "right" that it exists — that it was right for them to have been dispossessed of their homes, their property and their livelihoods so that a Jewish state could be created on their land. The Palestinians are not the world's first dispossessed people, but they are the first to be asked to legitimize what happened to them.

Common Dreams

Dumb and Dumber

I guess the reality is that their son will be pretty safe in the IDF, given that the US is doing most of the fighting for Israel now.

At the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee this week in Washington, a conservative Christian couple from eastern Tennessee told me that their son had decided to join the Israeli army. It was one of many surreal moments during the three-day gathering hosted by AIPAC, the lobbying group devoted to ensuring close U.S.-Israel ties that remains extraordinarily influential in Washington. "We just love God, and we just love Israel," the couple beamed, when I asked why they had come to the conference.


The Economist on AIPAC

The Economist is reporting about AIPAC blocking the exit to Iraq, and keeping the door to Iran as wide open as possible.

THIS week saw yet another reminder of the awesome power of “the lobby”. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) brought more than 6,000 activists to Washington for its annual policy conference. And they proceeded to live up to their critics' darkest fears.

They heard from the four most powerful people on Capitol Hill—Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner from the House, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell from the Senate—as well as the vice-president (who called his talk “The United States and Israel: United We Stand”) and sundry other power-brokers. Several first-division presidential candidates held receptions.

The display of muscle was almost equalled by the display of unnerving efficiency. There were booths for “congressional check-in”, booths for “delegate banquet troubleshooting”, and booths full of helpful young people. The only discordant note was sounded by a group of a dozen protesters—Orthodox Jews in beards, side-curls and heavy black coats—holding up signs saying “Stop AIPAC”, “Torah forbids Jews dictating foreign policy”, and “Judaism rejects the state of Israel”.

The conclusion is interesting:

The biggest challenge facing AIPAC is how to deal with this changing climate. Its members have been admirably honest about their mission in life. They boast about passing more than a hundred bits of pro-Israel legislation a year. But they are too willing to close down the debate with explosive charges of anti-Israel bias when people ask whether this is a good thing. America needs an open debate about its role in the Middle East—and AIPAC needs to take a positive role in that debate if it is to remain such a mighty force in American politics.

I LOVE the "explosive" charge of "anti-Israel" bias! Think they really wanted to say something else?


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Soros on AIPAC

George Soros writes that AIPAC has become a major problem for the US.

One explanation [for lack of discussion on Israel] is to be found in the pervasive influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which strongly affects both the Democratic and the Republican parties.[2] AIPAC's mission is to ensure American support for Israel but in recent years it has overreached itself. It became closely allied with the neocons and was an enthusiastic supporter of the invasion of Iraq. It actively lobbied for the confirmation of John Bolton as US ambassador to the United Nations. It continues to oppose any dialogue with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas. More recently, it was among the pressure groups that prevailed upon the Democratic House leadership to drop the requirement that the President obtain congressional approval before taking military action against Iran. AIPAC under its current leadership has clearly exceeded its mission, and far from guaranteeing Israel's existence, has endangered it.

This does not sounds like a group that is concerned with US interests. How many more people have to come to the same conlcusion before our policy changes.

NY Review of Books

Monday, March 19, 2007

Kristof on the Israel Issue

Will these cracks in the wall allow some sun to shine in? We can only hope so.

Whether they have "learned to muzzle themselves" or they "just don't get it," US politicians should stop biting their tongues when it comes to Israel, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof argues in Sunday's paper.

"Democrats are railing at just about everything President Bush does, with one prominent exception: Bush's crushing embrace of Israel," Kristof writes.

And since "[t]here is no serious political debate among either Democrats or Republicans about our policy toward Israelis and Palestinians," Kristof believes, the "silence harms America, Middle East peace prospects and Israel itself."

"Within Israel, you hear vitriolic debates in politics and the news media about the use of force and the occupation of Palestinian territories," Kristof notes. "Yet no major American candidate is willing today to be half as critical of hard-line Israeli government policies as, say, Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper."

According to Kristof, "Hard-line Israeli policies have profoundly harmed that country's long-term security by adding vulnerable settlements, radicalizing young Palestinians, empowering Hamas and Hezbollah, isolating Israel in the world and nurturing another generation of terrorists in Lebanon. The Israeli right's aggressive approach has only hurt Israeli security, just as in much the same way that Bush's invasion of Iraq ended up harming U.S. interests."

Discussing what happened after Hezbollah kidnapped and killed Israeli troops last summer, Kristof believes that "Bush would have been a much better friend to Israel if he had tried to rein in Olmert," after the prime minister "invaded Lebanon and thus transformed Hezbollah into a heroic force in much of the Arab world."

"So let's be better friends -- and stop biting our tongues," Kristof argues.

I thought this was interesting:

You can argue that Arabs pursue a double standard, focusing on repression by Israelis while ignoring greater human rights violations by fellow Arabs. But the suffering in Palestinian territories, while not remotely at the scale of brutality in Sudan or Iraq, is still tragically real.

The question is not whether Israel is better than the Arab states, which indeed have many problems, but rather whether Israel, at the very least, is it a true "western" nation" that deserves the level of support provided by the United States. Or whether Israel abuses this support by taking actions that place the US in danger by virtue of its commitment to back Israel at every turn.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bloggers vs. the Lobby

Interesting analysis of the effect of bloggers on AIPAC's lobbying efforts. I think it is definately forcing AIPAC from under the radar, but AIPAC may just be able to shift tactics.

Pressed by Huffington to explain why he was sure Bush would attack Iran, [Wes Clark] answered, “You just have to read what’s in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers.”


Soon [Wes] was engaged in a humiliating apology and repentance ritual with Abe Foxman of the ADL.

At this point the story could have taken the same path it has virtually every time something similar has happened since 1970—the originator of the “anti-Semitic” gaffe apologizes, some taint remains attached to his name, and everyone is reminded once again of the perils of crossing swords with “the lobby.”

But things took a different course, for significant reasons.


For within a day or two, one could read in the blogs some surprising assertions that amounted to a truth defense of Wes Clark. It seemed to come primarily from young, or comparatively young, Jewish bloggers. Observations that had been bandied about for years in private seemed to burst forth where many people could see them. This was welcome and suggests a broadening and deepening of the peace movement that so notably failed to stop the Iraq War. Suddenly there were Jewish voices talking about the Israel lobby as an established fact and, to be frank, as a bit of a problem. Significantly, these were not voices from an older and more alienated Chomskyian Left but from an American Prospect-like liberal mainstream.

We can only hope this trend continues.


AIPACers Do Support the Iraq War

So much for the bogus claim that AIPAC did not push for war with Iraq.

Members of the main pro-Israel lobbying group offered scattered boos to a statement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that the Iraq war has been a failure on several scores.

The boos, mixed with some polite applause, stood in stark contrast to the reception House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) received minutes earlier. Most of the crowd of 5,000 to 6,000 stood and loudly applauded Boehner when he said the U.S. had no choice but to win in Iraq.

Pelosi and Boehner were speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual meeting. AIPAC has not taken a position on the war in Iraq or the supplemental spending bill to be considered this week by the House Appropriations Committee, but much of Boehner’s speech was about the future of the Iraq conflict.


AIPAC Kills Anti-War Effort

AIPAC has successfully derailed the anti-war movement in the Democratic party.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the leadership had decided to strip from a major military spending bill a requirement for Bush to gain approval from Congress before moving against Iran.

Conservative Democrats as well as lawmakers concerned about the possible impact on
Israel had argued for the change in strategy.

The interesting thing is that someone has decided that this can no longer be done below the radar. Congressmen and women are openly stating that they oppose the provision out of a direct concern for Israel with little discussion of US interests.

Rep. Shelley Berkley (news, bio, voting record), D-Nev., said in an interview there is widespread fear in Israel about Iran, which is believed to be seeking nuclear weapons and has expressed unremitting hostility about the Jewish state.

"It would take away perhaps the most important negotiating tool that the U.S. has when it comes to Iran," she said of the now-abandoned provision.

"I didn't think it was a very wise idea to take things off the table if you're trying to get people to modify their behavior and normalize it in a civilized way," said Rep. Gary Ackerman (news, bio, voting record) of New York.


"This supplemental should be about supporting the troops and providing what they need," said Rep. Dan Boren D-Okla., on Monday upon returning from a trip to Iraq. Boren said he plans to oppose any legislation setting a clear deadline for troops to leave.

All the hand wringing about old "canards" seem to have been thrown out the window. Pat Buchanan has been proven correct, again. I wouldn't, however, hold my breath for any apologies if I were Pat.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

AIPAC Wants To Keep Iran in the Hands of Bush

Mattthew Yglesias reports on AIPAC direct lobbying effort to keep the decision to attack Iraq in the hands of George Bush, rather than in congress where it is constitutionally placed.

Hawkish pro-Israel lawmakers are pushing to strike a provision slated for the war spending bill that would, with some exceptions, require the president to seek congressional approval before using military force in Iran.

The influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee also is working to keep the language out, said an aide to a pro-Israel lawmaker.

This is a direct an admission that The Lobby is dedicated only to the well being of another country, and that Lobby pushed to have America get involved in another war.

I don't want to hear any claims that, once bombing has started, that the Israel Lobby was not involved in this process. The Zionists and their supporters have pushed America into the war with Iran. The evidence here is overwhelming.