War, as General Sherman once said, is hell. It is also widely perceived to be a failure of diplomacy.
Which would explain why it is, that when war-promoting lobbyists want to generate congressional enthusiasm for the next war, all short-term congressional memories must be wiped out.
Wiped out, that is, with the efficiency of that “cricket clicker” used by Agents Kay and Jay, played by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith (shown here), in the Men in Black film series.
In the films, one click aimed at a targeted subject erases all recent memory; the clicker also works amazingly well in US elections.
Which is one explanation of why after yet another click-call from AIPAC, 44 US senators found that they no longer remembered what happened the last time the neocons took us to war against a Middle East nation, a war that has thus far cost 4,000 American military dead at a cost of more than $800 billion.
That war further secured Israel’s role as the tail that wags the dog of the US government in all matters pertaining to the Middle East.
Thus it was that with no apparent memory of the last time this nation went to war, 44 US senators dutifully sent a letter to President Obama, telling him what the US must do after the inevitable failure of last week’s round of negotiations with Iran.
These 44 senators forgot about the terrible reviews of the 2003 Shock and Awe production. They just know Shock and Awe: The Sequel, will be a success.
Their June 15 foreign policy letter is reproduced here, complete with signatures.
The signees include 25 Democrats and 19 Republicans. These senators represent AIPAC’s honor roll of loyalists.
Democrats: Menendez NJ; Schumer NY; Cardin MD; Blumenthal; CT Lieberman I-CT; Wyden OR; Lautenberg NJ; Pryor IL; Casey PA; Gillbrand NY; Brown; Stabenow MI; Klobuchar MN; Merkele OR; Coons DE; Nelson NE; Bennet CO; Inouye HI; Mikulski MD; Tester MT; Hagan NC; Nelson FL; Warner VA; Levin MI; Beegich AK. (25)
Republicans: Blunt MO; Collins ME; Isakson GA; Ayotte NH; Risch ID; Vitter LA; Moran KS; Coryn TX; Boman AR; Sessions AL; Scott Brown MA; Crapo ID; Hoeven ND; Coats IN; Murkowski AK; Toomey PA’ Lee UT; Portman OH; Heller NV (19)
The P5+1 negotiators (representatives of the five members of the UN security council plus Germany) delivered an ultimatum to Tehran in the Moscow talks, demandng that Iran agree to three demands, all of which the P5+1 negotiators knew would be non-starters for Iran. The demands:
One, close the Fordow facility, Iran’s major nuclear development underground project..
Two, freeze enrichment above 5%, a figure far below weapons-grade enrichment. (19.5% is a more reasonable enrichment, a figure still below weapons grade.)
Three, ship all uranium enriched above 5% out of the country
Viewing the negotiations from outside the actual negotiation circle, Israel smugly holds tight to its own nuclear arsenal developed in faux secrecy with the help of western powers.
In his web site, Informed Comment, Juan Cole wrote this week that strong evidence has emerged demonstrating how Israel employed the threat that it would use nuclear weapons against Iraq if the US did not act on its own in 2003.
Cole reports on the newly serialized memoirs of Alastair Campbell, who in 2002, was then British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s communications director.
Cole writes that, according to Campbell, in conversations with President George W. Bush in late 2002, Israeli’s then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon “threatened to nuke Baghdad if Saddam Hussein hit Israel with rockets again.”
It is an astonishing threat. The Iraqi SCUDs that hit Israel during the Gulf War of 1991 were primitive and hardly the sort of threat to Israel that would trigger a nuclear response among sane people.
It is also clear that the threat was intended to force George W. Bush to act aggressively against Saddam.
Cole speculates that the current Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu might very well be behind the scenes, once again pushing the US toward an attack on Iran. He adds:
I have long wondered why western leaders pay so much attention to Netanyahu, the leader of a small country of 7.5 million with a gross domestic product only a little bigger than that of Portugal. Is it because, behind closed doors, they still talk the way Sharon did?
Does Israel regularly use its nuclear warheads to blackmail the US and the West more generally?
Good question, which leads to a second question: If Israel is using its stockpile of nuclear warheads as blackmail, who is to blame? The US and the West are to blame. We enabled and supported Israel’s nuclear arms program during a period when the US and the West were engaged in a Cold War with the Soviet Union.
This short-term solution was short-sighted. It was a solution that turned Israel into a nuclear military entity that can no longer be controlled by the US and the West.
In an earlier, more innocent time, we assumed Israel could be trusted to act responsibly with the weapons we helped them develop. Israel was, we believed then, the “only democracy” in the region, right?
That was then, this is now. And now we must deal with a nuclear armed Israeli government falling increasingly under the control of the West Bank settler movement with its dangerous ethnic exceptionalism and its Masada-complex.
Uri Avnery describes the settler-dominated government under which he, a longtime Zionist loyalist turned radical leftist, must live out his final years. He is not pleased:
The whole raison d’être of the settlements is to drive the Arabs out of the country and turn the whole land of Canaan into a Jewish state. In the meantime their shock troops carry out pogroms against their Arab “neighbors” and burn their mosques.
These fundamentalists now have a huge influence on our government’s policy, and their impact is growing.
Here is just a recent example of that impact: Amy Teibel, who writes for the Associated Press from Jerusalem, reports that Russia president Vladimir Putin (shown here) will visit Israel next week, where “the steely Russian president [is] widely viewed as coddling the Iranians”.
Yacov Livne, head of the Russia desk at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, offered this threat to Putin in advance of his visit:
“The message they (the Russians) will receive is that Israel can’t tolerate a nuclear Iran. Of course we prefer a diplomatic solution, but we will use all means to protect Israel’s survival.”
President Obama must now cope with a nuclear-armed Israeli government which has the absolutist backing of 44 AIPAC-guided senators who collectively ignored the old political adage that “foreign policy stops at the water’s edge“. The senators sent an Israel-First letter to the president, which concludes with this stern demand:
If the sessions in Moscow produce no substantive agreement, we urge you to reevaluate the utility of further talks at this time and instead focus on significantly increasing the pressure on the Iranian government through sanctions and making clear that a credible military option exists. As you have rightly noted, ‘the window for diplomacy is closing. Iran’s leaders must realize that you mean precisely that.
Did these 44 elected government office-holders meet in solemn assembly in a Senate conference room and reflect prayerfully on what should follow the negotiations on what Iran must do to avoid further economic punishment and a possible military attack?
Did they seriously reflect on the overwhelming evidence that Iran is not an immediate threat to emerge as a nuclear arms power? Evidence like this:
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed in a Senate hearing – following the release of the classified National Intelligence Estimate in 2011 – that he has a “high level of confidence” that Iran “has not made a decision as of this point to restart its nuclear weapons program.
Mohamed ElBaradei – who spent more than a decade as the director of the IAEA, [the International Atomic Energy Agency]
– said that he had not “seen a shred of evidence” that Iran was pursuing the bomb.
Six former ambassadors to Iran within the last decade say that there is no evidence that Iran is building nuclear weapons, and that Iran is complying with international law.
Former AIPAC staffer turned progressive blogger, MJ Rosenberg, knows a great deal about AIPAC pressure on Congress. He concludes:
The letter is pure AIPAC/Netanyahu. One, it offers the other party nothing except (2) negotiations themselves which are viewed as a concession to the other side. The offer is designed to be rejected. Why would Iran give up something for nothing?
The letter is also an AIPAC device for scoring senators in an election year. Those who sign will be rewarded or left alone. Those who don’t will hear from AIPAC and its friends. Not a pretty possibility.
This is foreign policy making at its worst, not policy at all but pure special interest politics designed by a lobby to advance Binyamin Netanyahu’s interests and agenda. Ugly stuff. But not surprising. Just appalling.
Wait, there is more. Not to be outdone in the Iran-bashing, lust for war department, the US House of Representatives affirmed its own resolution of support for an aggressive position on Iran. The final vote was 401-11.
For those of you who only consider Republicans to be warmongers: 166 of 190 Democrats voted in support, including some of its ostensibly most progressive members, such as Barney Frank and Rush Holt.
The language used [in the resolution] bodes terribly for the United States’ already disastrous and destructive foreign policy. The House affirms not merely that Iran will not be allowed to manufacture nuclear weapons, but that it will not be permitted the capability of said manufacturing.
Seeking to create a high standard for the negotiators to follow prior to the Moscow meeting between Iran and the P5+1, negotiators the Britain’s Guardian newspaper offered this guidance:
All sides need to be courageous enough to recognize a fair exchange is a central tenet of dialogue.
Between ordinary people and governments alike, reciprocity can be expressed in many shapes; among them, in the form of mutual respect. In the context of Iran’s dialogue with the P5+1, this means considering the concerns of all sides as equal and being willing to give at least as much as one takes.
A lofty admonition, to be sure, but not one that the majorities of both houses of the US Congress nor the P5+1 negotiators, want to embrace.
How will this White House respond? Will Shock and Awe: The Sequel, open soon in the homes of American parents and tax payers near you? You already know the answer if Mitt Romney is elected president. If you don’t know, check this out.
If Barack Obama is reelected in November, what can we expect in a second term? Well, so far, even in the midst of an election campaign, Obama has resisted AIPAC’s pressure to sanction a Shock and Awe: The Sequel.
Robert Wright wrote in The Atlantic that he feels Obama is letting the country “drift” into war with Iran. I don’t agree with that view. Obama does not strike me as a leader who lets thing “drift”. War is still hell. The November election will go a long way toward determining if the American voters agree with General Sherman.