As Israelis Press Obama on Iran, Let’s Remember they Urged Iraq War, Too

The Israeli leadership, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, will attempt to strong-arm President Barack Obama, during his visit to Israel, into attacking Iran. (In part this noise about Iran is to deflect attention from the vast Israeli land grab in the Palestinian West Bank). It is now often forgotten, and even denied, that the then Israeli leadership was also a huge cheering section for the disastrous Iraq War. Netanyahu in particular wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in late 2002 entitled “The Case for Toppling Saddam.” The Israeli officials of the time were unanimous that Saddam Hussein was within months of having a nuclear weapon (Iraq’s nuclear enrichment program was mothballed in 1991). President Obama should keep in mind, while in Israel, these passages from John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s Israel Lobby:

“On August 16, 2002, eleven days before Vice President Cheney kicked off the campaign for war with a hard‐line speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Washington Post reported that “Israel is urging U.S. officials not to delay a military strike against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.140 By this point, according to Sharon, strategic coordination between Israel and the U.S. had reached “unprecedented dimensions,” and Israeli intelligence officials had given Washington a variety of alarming reports about Iraq’s WMD programs.141 As one retired Israeli general later put it, “Israeli intelligence was a full partner to the picture presented by American and British intelligence regarding Iraq’s non‐conventional capabilities.”142

Israeli leaders were deeply distressed when President Bush decided to seek U.N. Security Council authorization for war in September, and even more worried when Saddam agreed to let U.N. inspectors back into Iraq, because these developments seemed to reduce the likelihood of war. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told reporters in September 2002 that “the campaign against Saddam Hussein is a must. Inspections and inspectors are good for decent people, but dishonest people can overcome easily inspections and inspectors.”143

At the same time, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak wrote a New York Times op‐ed warning that “the greatest risk now lies in inaction.”144 His predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, published a similar piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Case for Toppling Saddam.”>145 Netanyahu declared, “Today nothing less than dismantling his regime will do,” adding that “I believe I speak for the overwhelming majority of Israelis in supporting a pre‐emptive strike against Saddam’s regime.” Or as Ha’aretz reported in February 2003: “The [Israeli] military and political leadership yearns for war in Iraq.”146 But as Netanyahu suggests, the desire for war was not confined to Israel’s leaders. Apart from Kuwait, which Saddam conquered in 1990, Israel was the only country in the world where both the politicians and the public enthusiastically favored war.147 As journalist Gideon Levy observed at the time, “Israel is the only country in the West whose leaders support the war unreservedly and where no alternative opinion is voiced.”148 In fact, Israelis were so gung‐ho for war that their allies in America told them to damp down their hawkish rhetoric, lest it look like the war was for Israel.

140 Jason Keyser, “Israel Urges U.S. to Attack,” Washington Post, August 16, 2002. Also see Aluf Benn, “PM Urging U.S. Not to Delay Strike against Iraq,” Ha’aretz, August 16, 2002; Idem, “PM Aide: Delay in U.S. Attack Lets Iraq Speed Up Arms Program,” Ha’aretz, August 16, 2002; Reuven Pedhatzur, “Israel’s Interest in the War on Saddam,” Ha’aretz, August 4, 2002; Ze’ev Schiff, “Into the Rough,” Ha’aretz, August 16, 2002. 141 Gideon Alon, “Sharon to Panel: Iraq is Our Biggest Danger,” Ha’aretz, August 13, 2002. At a White House press conference with President Bush on October 16, 2002, Sharon said: “I would like to thank you, Mr. President, for the friendship and cooperation. And as far as I remember, as we look back towards many years now, I think that we never had such relations with any President of the United States as we have with you, and we never had such cooperation in everything as we have with the current administration.” For a transcript of the press conference, see “President Bush Welcomes Prime Minister Sharon to White House; Question and Answer Session with the Press,” U.S. Department of State, October 16, 2002. Also see Kaiser, “Bush and Sharon Nearly Identical on Mideast Policy.”

142 Shlomo Brom, “An Intelligence Failure,” Strategic Assessment (Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University), Vol. 6, No. 3 (November 2003), p. 9. Also see “Intelligence Assessment: Selections from the Media, 1998‐2003,” in ibid., pp. 17‐19; Gideon Alon, “Report Slams Assessment of Dangers Posed by Libya, Iraq,” Ha’aretz, March 28, 2004; Dan Baron, “Israeli Report Blasts Intelligence for Exaggerating the Iraqi Threat,” JTA, March 28, 2004; Greg Myre, “Israeli Report Faults Intelligence on Iraq,” New York Times, March 28, 2004; James Risen, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006), pp. 72‐73.

143 Marc Perelman, “Iraqi Move Puts Israel in Lonely U.S. Corner,” Forward, September 20, 2002. This article begins, “Saddam Hussein’s surprise acceptance of ‘unconditional’ United Nations weapons inspections put Israel on the hot seat this week, forcing it into the open as the only nation actively supporting the Bush administration’s goal of Iraqi regime change.” Peres became so frustrated with the UN process in the following months that in mid‐February 2003 he lashed out at the French by questioning France’s status as a permanent member of the Security Council. “Peres Questions France Permanent Status on Security Council,” Ha’aretz, February 20, 2003. On a visit to Moscow in late September 2002, Sharon made it clear to Russian President Putin, who was leading the charge for new inspections, “that the time when these inspectors could have been effective has passed.” Herb Keinon, “Sharon to Putin: Too Late for Iraq Arms Inspection,” Jerusalem Post, October 1, 2002.

144 Ehud Barak, “Taking Apart Iraq’s Nuclear Threat,” New York Times, September 4, 2002.

145 Benjamin Netanyahu, “The Case for Toppling Saddam,” Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2002. The Jerusalem Post was particularly hawkish on Iraq, frequently running editorials and op‐eds promoting the war, and hardly ever running pieces against it. Representative editorials include “Next Stop Baghdad,” Jerusalem Post, November 15, 2001; “Don’t Wait for Saddam,” Jerusalem Post, August 18, 2002; “Making the Case for War,” Jerusalem Post, September 9, 2002. For some representative op‐eds, see Ron Dermer, “The March to Baghdad,” Jerusalem Post, December 21, 2001; Efraim Inbar, “Ousting Saddam, Instilling Stability,” Jerusalem Post, October 8, 2002; Gerald M. Steinberg, “Imagining the Liberation of Iraq,” Jerusalem Post, November 18, 2001.

146 Aluf Benn, “Background: Enthusiastic IDF Awaits War in Iraq,” Ha’aretz, February 17, 2002. Also see James Bennet, “Israel Says War on Iraq Would Benefit the Region,” New York Times, February 27, 2003; Chemi Shalev, “Jerusalem Frets As U.S. Battles Iraq War Delays,” Forward, March 7, 2003.

147 Indeed, a February 2003 poll reported that 77.5 percent of Israeli Jews wanted the United States to attack Iraq. Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann, “Peace Index: Most Israelis Support the Attack on Iraq,” Ha’aretz, March 6, 2003. Regarding Kuwait, a public opinion poll released in March 2003 found that 89.6 percent of Kuwaitis favored the impending war against Iraq. James Morrison, “Kuwaitis Support War,” Washington Times, March 18, 2003.

148 Gideon Levy, “A Deafening Silence,” Ha’aretz, October 6, 2002. 149 See Dan Izenberg, “Foreign Ministry Warns Israeli War Talk Fuels US Anti‐Semitism,” Jerusalem Post, March 10, 2003, which makes clear that “the Foreign Ministry has received reports from the US” telling Israelis to cool their jets because “the US media” is portraying Israel as “trying to goad the administration into war.” There is also evidence that Israel itself was concerned about being seen as driving American policy toward Iraq. See Benn, “PM Urging U.S. Not to Delay Strike”; Perelman, “Iraq Move Puts Israel in Lonely U.S. Corner.” Finally, in late September 2002, a group of political consultants known as the “Israel Project” told pro‐Israel leaders in the United States “to keep quiet while the Bush administration purses a possible war with Iraq.” Dana Milbank, “Group Urges Pro‐Israel Leaders Silence on Iraq,” Washington Post, November 27, 2002.”

17 Responses

  1. In the face of all of this evidence, Richard Perle would shrug his shoulders and calmly explain,”Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice are not Jewish! They are the government officials who started the war.” Another of his comments goes,”If I had been the architect of the war, it would have gone better.” Frank Lutz is working overtime to deny Jews are pushing for American troops to fight proxy wars for Israel.

    Someone needs to organize a million man Peace Rally in DC to protest these neocon warlords.I’m on board if one is held…Prof. Cole…any ideas?

  2. President Obama began his visit to Israel with even more than the usual obsequiousness American leaders display toward Israel. He referred to the “unbreakable bond” between America and Israel, which is normal and unremarkable. Then he noted that he was “confident in declaring that our alliance is eternal.” Eternal? No alliance in history has been eternal. We don’t even describe as “eternal” our alliances with Great Britain and Japan, countries with whom we share a lot more in terms of national interest than we do with Israel.

    • He also told a woman with a really ugly baby that it was cute.

      The presence of empty flattery is hardly the most important thing to note about Obama’s visit to Israel.

  3. Remember reading in several places that much of the false WMD intelligence was filtered through Israeli intelligence sources. And unless I missed it no one has been held accountable for the false Niger Documents or for that matter any of the false intelligence force fed to the American public by a complicit main stream media

    • No one in the White House-Wall Street-Defense industry mafia has been held accountable for any of their crimes for decades, so it’s not surprising. Nothing is surprising except that we can still talk about these things in public. Which doesn’t mean that Big Brother isn’t watching. For the moment, the government has sufficient control of communications to relax censorship and just make lists of those who speak out. That could change dramatically, but let’s keep defying them while we can.

  4. Facts do not matter to the maniacal “hawks” and “vulcans”, remember they “make” the facts! That being said, I really do hope that President Obama tells them to go “scratch”.

  5. It’s a crying shame that the will of the American people wasn’t taken into consideration as much as the will of the war pig Netanyaho.

    After all it’s our troops, our brothers and sisters blood, and our money.

  6. This afternoon I took part in a very well-attended meeting at the London School of Economics and Political Science with lectures by two experts on the state of the Iranian nuclear program. Both speakers made it quite clear that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program, but that Iran’s nuclear program is used by the Israelis mainly to put pressure on the Iranian government and divert attention from the moribund “peace process”. Contrary to the NPT regulations, the West and particularly the United States had not only tried to prevent Iran from pursuing an enrichment program, but initially they even wanted to prevent Iran from having a nuclear reactor and even prevented other countries from providing fuel for her sole nuclear reactor in Bushehr that had started under the Shah and that was almost 90 per cent complete by the time of the revolution. Consequently, Iran was forced to start enrichment in order to get fuel for that reactor. The two excellent lectures and discussions made it clear that all the fuss about Iran’s nuclear program is very much like the false propaganda about Iraq’s WMD.

    I have just finished watching the press conference given by the US President and the Israeli Prime Minister live on Aljazeera, and it was every bit as frightening as the reports that you have quoted about the pressure brought to bear on US politicians prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Both Netanyahu and President Obama stressed that the relations between the two governments are closer now than they have ever been. After repeating the mantra that Iran’s (non-existent) nuclear weapons posed an existential threat to Israel, Netanyahu kept repeating that President Obama had assured him that Israel was entitled to take any action necessary to defend herself and that he would not delegate responsibility for Israel’s security to any other country, including its best friend the United States of America. President Obama in turn stressed that America’s policy towards Iran was not containment but the prevention of an Iranian nuclear weapon, that the window of opportunity to resolve the dispute was narrow and that all options were on the table.

    Judging by this press conference and all the false propaganda that is repeated slavishly by the mainstream media, it seems that we are heading for a repetition of the same disastrous events that led to the invasion of Iraq, this time with even worse consequences.

  7. Re: Iran’s “nuclear Program”: we had almost EXACTLY the same sort of intelligence from Scott (forgot his last name), the American member of the UN inspection team in Iraq, long before we went in. He was adamant that the WMD were figments of the twisted Bush-Cheney mindset, but nobody wanted to listen to HIM!!! This after Saddam had twice accused him of being a CIA plant on the WMD team and kicked him out of the country.

  8. We tried the peace demonstrations, both against Vietnam and Iraq. They didn’t work. The worldwide demonstrations against the pending Iraq war were the largest in history, they didn’t work. They didn’t translate into political power. The Vietnam war did not end because Nixon turned into a peace loving hippy, it ended because activists elected anti war congressmen in ’70 & ’72, and proceeded to cut the funding for the war.
    Most Dems in Congress were afraid of looking “unpatriotic” when they voted for war in 2002. We lynched Iraq and almost lynched those who tried to stop the lynching. Although anti-war Dems got elected in 2006 & 2008 they didn’t have the balls to cut the $ for the Iraq war.
    Almost all of congress is ready to lynch Iran today based on the same propaganda as the Iraq War.
    When all of JFK’s military recommended attaching Cuba, they didn’t know about the Nuke Warheads on the Island. They were planning to ignited a Nuclear War. Only one advisor had the courage to take a stand for diplomacy and prevented Nuclear War.

    Since most people don’t know the name of their congressman never mind how they vote on war/peace issues, they get away with murder. If you want to find out if your congressman is voting for war or peace, check out PeaceActionWest.Org

    • Most Dems in Congress were afraid of looking “unpatriotic” when they voted for war in 2002.

      Actually, 58% of the Democrats in Congress voted against the AUMF.

      • Just the facts, ma’am…

        The use of the 2002 AUMF against Iraq to justify the Bush invasion and an ongoing US military presence there. The UN Resolutions it cites, including those sanctioning military force, are from the 1990-1991 Gulf War. The UN never passed a resolution that authorized the use of military force in the Second Gulf War. On June 28, 2004, the US returned sovereignty to the reconstituted state of Iraq and in doing so acknowledged that the Iraq referenced in the AUMF as well as the legal rationale for a US presence in (and occupation of) the country no longer existed.

        The AUMF placed Democrats in a political bind. Despite later protestations, they knew it meant war. Knowing this, they were faced with the following calculus. They could vote against the AUMF, but since Bush was going to war anyway they would be portrayed as unpatriotic and not supporting the troops. If the war was quick and successful, regardless of the merits of the case, they would be portrayed as weak and wrong. If they voted for, they might not get credit but they would avoid blame. Still some did vote no.

        The AUMF passed in the House October 10, 2002 by a vote of 296-133 with 3 not voting. 81 Democrats voted for the AUMF. 126 voted against it (with 1 not voting). Only 6 Republicans voted against. It passed the Senate the next day with a vote of 77-23. 27 Democrats voted for it. 22 Democrats voted against, including Jeffords (I-VT). Only one Republican Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) voted against. Bush signed the AUMF into law on October 16, 2002.

        link to

        But who cares? The cruds in Congress are just a bunch of immensely cynical and self-serving oath-breakers who know that the real decisions are way outside their scope — all they have to do, all they CAN do, is hand some kind of credit card debit on the account of the most of us to the MIC to cover the whole thing. And us little folks who pay for all this? Pfffftt.

        Makes you wonder why people who attend here to do their version of fact checking and impeachment even bother. It’s not like anyone who reads this stuff has any clout or would act on what they might learn here to keep the stupidity and wealth transfer from rolling on, rolling on…

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