Warmongers in the Shadows

Tuesday, April 10, 2007 2:11 AM

Harper's magazine runs an excellent online feature called “Washington Babylon”, written by Ken Silverstein. Reproduced below is the posting from last Friday, April 6th, entitled "Netanyahu's White House Visit". It seems that the leader of the Tel Aviv war party (Netanyahu) and the leader of the Washington war party (Cheney) had a private meeting in March at the White House, during the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual "Policy Conference". As you know, Cheney is the CEO of the U.S. federal government and the mentor of America's current President, G.W. Bush. In brief, Cheney is The Man, even though his popularity ratings are below 20%.

Cheney had spoken at the AIPAC extravaganza, but don't hold that against him. So did Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Harry Reid, and Senator Mitch McConnell, and Senator Joe Lieberman, and Congressman John Boehner, and Congressman Tom Lantos, among others. Like the annual Herzliya Conference in January in Tel Aviv, the AIPAC get-together is yet another important opportunity for Washington's career politicians to outdo one another in kowtowing to the Israel Lobby and in supporting its fulsome agenda, whatever that agenda might be, wherever it might lead, and whatever it might cost the American taxpayer.

To date, this arrangement has cost America plenty in blood (Iraq and the WTC Towers) and money ($3 billions++ per year), not to mention respect and moral standing in the world at large.

Remember the lineup at Herzliya: Senator John Edwards, Newt Gingrich, Rudolph Giuliani, Senator John McCain, and Governor Mitt Romney. Correct me, but are not all these worthy gentlemen running for the U.S. Presidency? Their time is valuable. They are not going to waste it; they are not going to take time to do anything, unless they think there is something in it for them. Like Cheney and Bush and Pelosi and Reid, they are career politicians and realists, not dreamers, ideologues or thinkers.

This is my roundabout way of suggesting, for the umpteenth time, that Washington has no foreign policy when it comes to the Middle East. Washington's policy is a domestic policy, masquerading as foreign policy. It is not based on ideas of right and wrong, certainly, or upon the legitimate interests of America. It is based, instead, on money and campaign contributions, votes and public relations. It is as simple as that. It would be nice if everybody, both politicians and commentators, would stop pretending otherwise.

Netanyahu's White House Visit

Washington Babylon, Ken Silverstein, Harper's Magazine, 4/6/07

.... [Robert] Novak had a particularly good column on the Middle East in yesterday's Washington Post. “The aphorism . . . that Arabs 'never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity'”, he wrote in the piece, “now can be applied to Israel.” Novak was referring to Israel's reaction to last week's Riyadh declaration, which showed a definite willingness on the part of Arab states to find a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert quickly responded to the declaration by saying that preconditions for any talks included the release of an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas last June. He also made clear that Israel would reject the right of return for Palestinian refugees or a withdrawal by Israel to its pre-1967 borders. “Negotiating those points does not mean they will be conceded,” Novak wrote. “But setting conditions for talks is a classic mechanism for escaping talks altogether.”

Novak said there would be no prospect of progress on a peace deal without serious White House pressure on the Israeli government, which is clearly not in the cards under George W. Bush--and not likely under his successor, based on the last month's AIPAC conference in Washington. Vice President Dick Cheney and various administration officials attended, as did many prominent Democrats, including presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

A well-placed source told me that Benjamin Netanyahu, the hard-line former prime minister and head of the Likud Party, had a private meeting with Cheney when he was in town for the conference. I ran that by Cheney's spokeswoman, Megan McGinn, who confirmed the meeting, and said it was held at the White House on March 12th. Several Israeli officials also were at the meeting, including the country's U.S. ambassador, McGinn added.

Of the meeting itself, my source said Cheney and Netanyahu discussed the need for heavy pressure on Iran over the next few months--the diplomatic equivalent of "overwhelming force" on the military front. They agreed that a military option should remain on the table, and Cheney left clear that the U.S. and Israel should continue to closely coordinate their policies on Iran.

I asked Augustus Richard Norton, an advisor to the Iraq Study Group and author of the new book Hezbollah: A Short History, for his opinion on the interplay between American and Israeli policy on Iran. His take:

The reason there is no light between the expressed U.S. position on the Iranian nuclear program and the Israeli position reflects:

a. A genuine concern about Iran's challenge to U.S. hegemony in the Middle East;

b. A fear that Iran, with a nuclear arsenal, might open the arsenal to non-state actors, including terrorists; and

c. The fact that Israel's politically influential supporters in the U.S. share deep Israeli concerns about the Iranian program.

C is certainly more important than B or A. Which is why the U.S. will not give the time of day to any serious discussion of a nuclear free Middle East, which would put Israel's nuclear arsenal on the table. What serious presidential candidate, from either party, has done other than underline the "existential threat" posed by Iran to Israel? Is this the result of rigorous analytical thinking or is it because none of them dares to run the political risk of saying otherwise?

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