Israeli Spy in Pentagon Linked to AIPAC
CBS is reporting that a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst detailed to Undersecretary of Defense for Planning Douglas Feith’s Office of Special Plans is under FBI investigation for spying for Israel. The person passed to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee confidential documents, including those detailing Bush administration policy toward Iran, and AIPAC then passed them to Israel. There are wiretaps and photographs backing up the FBI case (the FBI agents involved are extremely brave to take this on).
But this espionage case is too narrow. Consider what journalist Jim Lobe wrote about Feith’s Office of Special Plans and the Pentagon Near East and South Asia office:
‘ key personnel who worked in both NESA and OSP were part of a broader network of neo-conservative ideologues and activists who worked with other Bush political appointees scattered around the national-security bureaucracy to move the country to war, according to retired Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, who was assigned to NESA from May 2002 through February 2003. The heads of NESA and OSP were Deputy Undersecretary William Luti and Abram Shulsky, respectively. Other appointees who worked with them in both offices included Michael Rubin, a Middle East specialist previously with the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI); David Schenker, previously with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP); and Michael Makovsky; an expert on neo-con icon Winston Churchill and the younger brother of David Makovsky, a senior WINEP fellow and former executive editor of pro-Likud Jerusalem Post. Along with Feith, all of the political appointees have in common a close identification with the views of the right-wing Likud Party in Israel. ‘
Karen Kwiatkowski was an eyewitness in NESA, and Lobe reports:
‘ she recounts one incident in which she helped escort a group of half a dozen Israelis, including several generals, from the first floor reception area to Feith’s office. “We just followed them, because they knew exactly where they were going and moving fast.” When the group arrived, she noted the book which all visitors are required to sign under special regulations that took effect after the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks. “I asked his secretary, ‘Do you want these guys to sign in?’ She said, ‘No, these guys don’t have to sign in.'” It occurred to her, she said, that the office may have deliberately not wanted to maintain a record of the meeting. ‘
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is a lobbying group that used to support whatever government was in power in Israel, and used to give money even-handedly inside the US. My perception is that during the past decade AIPAC has increasingly tilted to the Likud in Israel, and to the political Right in the United States. In the 1980s, AIPAC set up the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as a pro-Israeli alternative to the Brookings Institution, which it perceived to be insufficiently supportive of Israel. WINEP has largely followed AIPAC into pro-Likud positions, even though its director, Dennis Ross, is more moderate. He is a figurehead, however, serving to disguise the far right character of most of the position papers produced by long-term WINEP staff and by extremist visitors and “associates” (Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer are among the latter).
WINEP, being a wing of AIPAC, is enormously influential in Washington. State Department and military personnel are actually detailed there to “learn” about “the Middle East”! They would get a far more balanced “education” about the region in any Israeli university, since most Israeli academics are professionals, whereas WINEP is a “think tank” that hires by ideology.
I did some consulting with one US company that had a government contract, and they asked me about WINEP position papers (many of them are just propaganda). When I said I would take them with a grain of salt, the guy said his company had “received direction” to pay a lot of attention to the WINEP material! So Discipline is being imposed even on the private sector.
Note that over 80% of American Jews vote Democrat, that the majority of American Jews opposed the Iraq war (more were against it than in the general population), and that American Jews have been enormously important in securing civil liberties for all Americans. Moreover, Israel has been a faithful ally of the US and deserves our support in ensuring its security. 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 bigotted against Latinos.
As can be seen by Lobe’s list, WINEP supplies rightwing intellectuals to Republican administrations, who employ their positions to support Likud policies from within the US government. They have the advantage over long-time civil servants in units like the State Department’s Intelligence and Research division, insofar as they are politically connected and so have the ear of the top officials.
So, passing a few confidential documents over is a minor affair. Pro-Likud intellectuals established networks linking Defense and the national security advisers of Vice President Dick Cheney, gaining enormous influence over policy by cherry-picking and distorting intelligence so as to make a case for war on Saddam Hussein. And their ulterior motive was to remove the most powerful Arab military from the scene, not because it was an active threat to Israel (it wasn’t) but because it was a possible deterrent to Likud plans for aggressive expansion (at the least, they want half of the West Bank, permanently).
It should be admitted that the American Likud could not make US policy on its own. Its members had to make convincing arguments to Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush himself. But they were able to make those arguments, by distorting intelligence, channeling Ahmad Chalabi junk, and presenting Big Ideas to men above them that signally lacked such ideas. (Like the idea that the road to peace in Jerusalem ran through Baghdad. Ha!)
It was these WINEP and AIPAC-linked US Likud backers in the Defense Department who had the Iraqi army dissolved as soon as Saddam was overthrown. This step threw Iraq into chaos and led to the deaths of nearly a thousand US servicemen so far, since an Iraq without an army would inevitably depend on the US military. But with the Iraqi army gone, and with Egypt and Jordan neutralized, Syria was left the only country anywhere near Israel that could make active trouble for Sharon if he completely screwed over the Palestinians. And Syria was now weak and isolated. So Sharon has had a free hand in his expansionist aggression. And, because the US public has been preoccupied with Iraq, the Likud could pursue its annexation of West Bank land and its expropriation of even more Palestinians without anyone over here even noticing. It is the best of all possible worlds for the heirs of Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
The Likud policies of reversing Oslo and stealing people’s land and making their lives hell has produced enormous amounts of terrorism against Israel, and the Likudniks have cleverly turned that to their political advantage. Aggression and annexation is necessary, they argue, because there is terrorism. Some of them now openly speak of ethnically cleansing the Palestinians, using the same argument. But when the Oslo peace process looked like it would go somewhere, terrorism tapered off (it did not end, but then peace had not been achieved).
The drawback for the US in all this is that US government backing for Sharon’s odious policies makes it hated in the Muslim world. (Note that Muslims who oppose Israeli aggression are often tagged as “terrorists” by the US government, but rightwing Jews who go to Palestine to colonize it, walking around with Uzi machine guns and sometimes shooting down civilians, are not “terrorists.”) This lack of balance is one big reason that Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri hit the US on September 11. In fact, Bin Laden wanted to move up the operation to punish the US for supporting Sharon’s crackdown on the Second Intifada.
Likud apologists have carefully planted the false story that al-Qaeda did not care about Palestine, but that is absurd. Bin Laden always complained about the occupation of the three holy cities (Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, the first two because of US troops in Saudi Arabia, and the third under Israeli occupation). When Bin Laden came back from Afghanistan to Jidda in 1989 his first sermon at the local mosque was about the Israeli repression of Palestinians during the first Infifada.
Now US occupation of Iraq is making it even more hated in the Muslim world. It is a policy hatched in part by AIPAC, WINEP, and their associated “thinkers.” The cynical might suggest that they actively want the US involved in a violent struggle with Muslims, to make sure that the US remains anti-Palestinian and so will permit Israeli expansion.
All this can happen because there is a vacuum in US political discourse. A handful of special interests in the United States virtually dictate congressional policy on some issues. With regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and a few allies have succeeded in imposing complete censorship on both houses of Congress. No senator or congress member dares make a speech on the floor of his or her institution critical of Israeli policy, even though the Israeli government often violates international law and UN Security Council resolutions (it would violate more such resolutions, except that the resolutions never got passed because only one NSC member, the US, routinely vetoes them on behalf of Tel Aviv.) As the Labor Party in Israel has been eclipsed by the Likud coalition, which includes many proto-fascist groups, this subservience has yoked Washington to foreign politicians who privately favor ethnic cleansing and/or agressive warfare for the purpose of annexing the territory of neighbors.
On the rare occasion when a brave member of congress dares stand up to this unrelenting AIPAC tyranny, that person is targeted for unelection in the next congressional campaign, with big money directed by AIPAC and/or its analogues into the coffers of the senator or congressman’s opponent. Over and over again, AIPAC has shaped the US congress in this way, so successfully that no one even dares speak out any more.
AIPAC is not all that rich or powerful, but politics in the US is often evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Because many races are very close, any little extra support can help change the outcome. AIPAC can provide that little bit. Moreover, most Americans couldn’t care less about the Middle East or its intractable problems, whereas the staffers at AIPAC are fanatics. If some congressman from southern Indiana knows he can pick up even a few thousand dollars and some good will from AIPAC, he may as well, since his constituents don’t care anyway. That there is no countervailing force to AIPAC allows it to be effective. (That is one reason that pro-Likud American activists often express concern about the rise of the Muslim-American community and the possibility that it may develop an effective lobby.) Moreover, AIPAC leverages its power by an alliance with the Christian Right, which has adopted a bizarre ideology of “Christian Zionism.” It holds that the sooner the Palestinians are ethnically cleansed, the sooner Christ will come back. Without millions of these Christian Zionist allies, AIPAC would be much less influential and effective.
The Founding Fathers of the United States deeply feared that a foreign government might gain this level of control over a branch United States government, and their fears have been vindicated.
The situation has reached comedic proportions. Congress is always drafting letters to the president, based on AIPAC templates, demanding that lopsided US policy in favor of Israel be revised to be even more in favor of Israel. US policy recently changed to endorse the expansion of Israeli colonies in Palestinian, West Bank territory.
Where Israel is in the right, this situation obviously is innocuous. The United States should protect Israel from aggressive attack, if necessary. United Nations members are pledged to collective security, i.e. to protecting any member nation from aggression at the hands of another. But given that Israel is a nuclear power with a vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction; given that Egypt and Jordan have long-lived peace treaties with Israel; and given that Syria and Lebanon are small weak powers, there is not in fact any serious military threat to Israel in its immediate neighborhood. In contrast, Israel launched wars against neighbors in 1956, 1967, and 1982 (all of which it won so easily as to bring into question the necessity for the wars in the first place if they were defensive), and has since 1967 been assiduously colonizing Palestinian land that it militarily occupied–all the while attempting to avoid becoming responsible for the Palestinian populations on that land. This latter policy has poisoned the entire world.
AIPAC currently has a project to shut up academics such as myself, the same way it has shut up Congress, through congressional legislation mandating “balance” (i.e. pro-Likud stances) in Middle East programs at American Universities. How long the US public will allow itself to be spied on and pushed around like this is a big question. And, with the rise of international terrorism targeting the US in part over these issues, the fate of the country hangs in the balance.
If al-Qaeda succeeds in another big attack, it could well tip the country over into military rule, as Gen. Tommy Franks has suggested. That is, the fate of the Republic is in danger. And the danger comes from two directions, not just one. It comes from radical extremists in the Muslim world, who must be fought. But it also comes from radical extremists in Israel, who have key allies in the US and whom the US government actively supports and against whom influential Americans are afraid to speak out.
If I had been in power on September 11, I’d have called up Sharon and told him he was just going to have to withdraw to 1967 borders, or face the full fury of the United States. Israel would be much better off inside those borders, anyway. It can’t absorb 3 million Palestinians and retain its character, and it can’t continue to hold 3 million Palestinians as stateless hostages without making itself inhumane and therefore un-Jewish. And then I’d have thrown everything the US had at al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and frog-marched Bin Laden off to justice, and rebuilt Afghanistan to ensure that al-Qaeda was permanently denied a base there. Iraq, well, Iraq was contained.