Enforced Orthodoxies and Iran

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On Thursday,
the neoconservative New York Sun published a
remarkable article
reporting on an event to be held that night
by AIPAC, at which Hillary Clinton was to deliver the keynote
address and John Edwards was to appear at the pre-speech cocktail
party. The article made several points which are typically deemed
off-limits to opponents of neoconservatism – ones which almost
invariably provoke accusations of anti-semitism when made by others.

First, the
Sun noted how important AIPAC’s support and financial contributions
are to presidential candidates:

it comes to important gatherings like this, there is going to
be a lot of pressure on the major candidates to not let one
of their competitors have the room to themselves,” a Democratic
strategist [and former Joe Lieberman aide], Daniel Gerstein,

event is the first time any of the 2008 candidates have competed
for attention in the same room since they launched their campaigns
in earnest. It is also an important illustration of just how
much stock all of the presidential candidates, Democrats and
Republicans alike, will put in the pro- Israel community, particularly
for campaign dollars.

Then, the
Sun emphasized how vital it was for presidential candidates
to attract contributions from New York Jewish groups generally,
and how such contributions (as is true for all interest groups)
are available only to those candidates who support those groups’
so-called “pro-Israel” agenda:

A Democratic
political consultant who worked on President Clinton ‘s re-election
campaign, Hank Sheinkopf, noted that the Aipac dinner always
draws a parade of politicians.

York is the ATM for American politicians. Large amounts of money
come from the Jewish community,”
he said. “If you’re running
for president and you want dollars from that group, you need
to show that you’re interested in the issue that matters most
to them.”

And, according
to the Sun, what do presidential candidates have to do
in order to ensure access to “the ATM for American politicians”
– the “large amounts of money from the Jewish community”
in New York? What is the “issue that matters most to them”? Belligerence
towards Iran:

how to deal with Iran is likely to be the next majority foreign
policy conundrum the 2008 presidential candidates face.

Mr. Edwards and Mrs. Clinton have different positions on how
to deal with the Iraq war, each has used harsh language on Iran.

The Sun
also highlighted how vital (what it calls) “the circuit of influential
Jewish donors” is to Hillary Clinton specifically:

Mrs. Clinton,
who has opted out of the public campaign financing system, has
tapped into the circuit of influential Jewish donors for years
and has strong support in the community. A spokesman for Aipac,
Joshua Block, said yesterday that the senator and former first
lady has “an extremely consistent and strong record of support
on issues that are important to the pro- Israel community.”

“She is
an extraordinary leader on those issues in the United States
Senate,” he said.

So, according
to the New York Sun (and the sources it cites): (1) financial
support from groups like AIPAC is indispensable for presidential
candidates; (2) the New York Jewish community of “influential”
donors is a key part of the “ATM for American politicians”; (3)
the issue which they care about most is Iran; and (4) they want
a hawkish, hard-line position taken against Iran. And the presidential
candidates – such as Clinton and Edwards – are embracing
AIPAC’s anti-Iran position in order to curry favor with that group.

If any public
figure made those same points, they would be excoriated, accused
of all sorts of heinous crimes, and forced into repentance rituals
). But this is what the New York Sun reported
on Thursday.

As expected,
Sen. Clinton matched Edwards’ hard-line anti-Iran rhetoric by
all sorts of hawkish threats in her AIPAC speech:

Iran a danger to the U.S. and one of Israel’s greatest threats,
U.S. senator and presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton
said “no option can be taken off the table” when dealing with
that nation. . . . “We need to use every tool at our disposal,
including diplomatic and economic in addition to the threat
and use of military force,” she said.

But according
the equally neoconservative New York Post, Clinton’s
speech was poorly received by many of the AIPAC members, because
she committed the crime of suggesting that diplomacy (presumably
as opposed to war) ought to be attempted first in order to resolve
these issues with Iran:

Sen. Hillary
Rodham Clinton drew grumbles at a pro-Israel dinner in Times
Square last night when she encouraged “engaging” with Iran before
taking stronger action to keep it nuke-free. . . .

remarks at the Marriott Marquis were met with little applause,
and after she left the stage, several people said they were
put off by the presidential candidate. “This is the wrong
crowd to do that with,” said one person at the dinner, noting
the pro-Israel crowd wanted to hear tougher rhetoric.

Is there
anything that Wes Clark said that is not included in these articles
from the Sun and the Post? No, there is not. In
fact, what Clark said is but a small subset of what these articles

It is simply
true that there are large and extremely influential Jewish donor
groups which are agitating for a U.S. war against Iran, and that
is the case because those groups are devoted to promoting Israel’s
interests and they perceive it to be in Israel’s interests for
the U.S. to militarily confront Iran. That is what the Sun
and the Post have made clear.

There is
just no point in denying that or pretending it is not the case,
and in any event, the way in which these groups have ratcheted
up their explicit anti-Iran advocacy has made it impossible for
these facts to be concealed any longer (and, as I have noted
, neoconservatives have been increasingly
that American Jews of all political stripes are compelled
to support the Bush administration because of its supposedly “pro-Israel”
policies – a claim grounded in the very “dual loyalty” theories
which they claim to find so offensive and outrageous when advanced
by others).

It goes
without saying that there are other factions and motives behind
the push for war with Iran besides right-wing Jewish groups. There
is the generic warmongering, militarism and oil-driven expansionism
represented by Dick Cheney. And there are the post-9/11 hysterics
and bigots who crave ever-expanding warfare and slaughter of Muslims
in the Middle East for reasons having nothing to do with Israel.
There are evangelical Christians who crave more Middle Eastern
war on religious and theological grounds, and there are some who
just believe that the U.S. can and should wage war against whatever
countries seem not like to us. And, it should also be noted, a
huge portion of American Jews, if not the majority, do not share
this agenda.

the influence of self-proclaimed “pro-Israeli” American Jewish
groups in helping to push the country into what looks more and
more every day to be an inevitable conflict with Iran is very
significant and cannot be ignored. Along those lines, I want to
return to the David Brooks column
which I wrote
on Thursday – a column I criticized on the ground
that Brooks falsely asserted, in essence, that “Americans” want
continued U.S. military domination of the Middle East, and that
the disaster of Iraq hasn’t changed their views on that topic,
even though polling data show precisely the opposite.

all of that, Brooks did make a point which is both true and important
– namely, that among all of the leading presidential candidates,
and within the dominant American political discourse, the only
view that is really represented is the view that America should
continue to militarily dominate the Middle East:

are having a debate about how to proceed in Iraq, but we are
not having a strategic debate about retracting American power
and influence. What's most important about this debate is what
doesn't need to be said. No major American leader doubts that
America must remain, as Dean Acheson put it, the locomotive
of the world.

Look at
the leaders emerging amid this crisis. The two major Republican
presidential contenders are John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, the
most aggressive internationalists in a party that used to have
an isolationist wing.

The Democrats,
meanwhile, campaigned for Congress in 2006 by promising to increase
the size of the military. The presidential front-runner, Hillary
Clinton, is the leader of the party's hawkish wing and recently
called for a surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan. John Edwards,
the most u201Cleftwardu201D major presidential contender, just delivered
a bare-knuckled speech in which he castigated the Bush administration
for not being tough enough with Iran. u201CTo ensure that Iran never
gets nuclear weapons, we need to keep all options on the table,u201D
Edwards warned.

Even though
Americans do
not support
military intervention in the Middle East on behalf
of Israel, and fewer
and fewer
support military adventurism in the Middle East
generally, Brooks is right about the fact that all of the leading
presidential candidates embrace the militaristic Middle East agenda
shared by AIPAC and similar groups. Who are the candidates who
reject it? Any who would are immediately marginalized and would
be subjected to the Wes Clark treatment (i.e., demonized
as an anti-semite unless and until they repented, appeared before
Abe Foxman to request absolution, repudiated their views, and
then took an oath of allegiance to that agenda). And they would
be cut off from what Hank Sheinkopf called the “ATM for American

Thus, no
leading presidential candidate seems able to articulate clear
opposition to the militaristic, war-seeking posture we are obviously
with regard to Iran. Instead, they are all spouting
rhetoric which – as Digby pointed
last night – amounts to an endorsement, or at least
a re-inforcement, of the Bush Doctrine: namely, that preemptive
war is permissible in general and may be specifically necessarily
against Iran. Regardless of whether there is merit in the abstract
to the notion of “keeping all options on the table,” this sort
of talk now has the effect, as Digby argues, of enabling Bush’s
increasingly war-provoking moves towards Iran.

There is
a real, and quite disturbing, discrepancy between the range of
permissible views on these issues within our mainstream political
discourse and the views of a large segment of the American public.
The former almost completely excludes the latter.

That has
to change and quickly. In the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq,
we did not have a real debate in this country about whether that
was wise or just. Cartoon images and bullying tactics supplanted
rational discourse – not only prior to the invasion but for
several years after – and we are paying the very heavy price
for that now. That is simply not a luxury that the country can
afford this time. It is genuinely difficult to imagine anything
more cataclysmic for the United States than a military confrontation
with Iran.

If part
of our motivation in confronting Iran is that Iran is a threat
to Israel, then we should declare that openly and debate whether
that is wise. That topic cannot be rendered off-limits by toxic
and manipulative anti-semitism accusations. All the time, Americans
openly debate the influence which all sorts of interest groups
have on government policy. There is nothing, in substance, different
about this topic.

Just as
is true for Iraq, we have been subjected to a carousel of ever-changing,
unrelated “justifications” as to why Iran is our mortal enemy
against whom war is necessary. First was the alarm-ringing over
Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons. Then, the President
featuring the (highly
) claim that Iran is the “leading sponsor of international
terrorism.” That was followed by an unrelenting emphasis on the
ugly statements from Iran’s President (but not
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Now the emphasis has shifted to Iran’s alleged
(but entirely unproven
and apparently overstated
) fueling of the civil war in Iraq.

The only
clear fact that emerges from this morass of war-fueling claims
is that there are significant and influential factions within
the country which want to drive the U.S. to wage war against Iran
and change its government. What matters to them is that this goal
is achieved. The “justifications” which enable it do not seem
to matter at all. Whatever does the trick will be used. Candid
and explicit debates over these issues – and clear, emphatic
opposition to the course the President is clearly pursuing with
regard to Iran – is urgently necessary.

If all we
have are the type of delicate, fear-driven, partial “debates”
which we had over Iraq and the muddled, ambivalent, politically
fearful positions from our political leaders that preceded the
Iraq invasion, then we will have the same result with Iran as
we had with Iraq. And there just is no more pressing priority
than ensuring that does not happen. But, at this point at least,
one searches in vain for the political leaders who are committed
to stopping it. The Wes Clark humiliation and punishment ritual
was intended to deter exactly such opposition, and it seems to
be achieving its objective rather well.

The very
same New York Sun today publishes an
– headlined Imagining a War with Iran
– that begins with this sentence: “With America heading toward
a war with Iran, inadvertent or otherwise, the picture of how
the conflict is likely to pan out is becoming clearer.” The article
then proceeds to describe how the war will play out.

On a related
note, Powerline’s Scott Johnson points
an article
from Heather Robinson, who attended the AIPAC event and is angry
over Hillary’s suggestion that war with Iran may not be necessary:
“But while Hillary's rhetoric of ‘engagement’ may sound good,
the community of anti-terror activists and Israel-supporters must
realize that, at the most basic level, engaging with people who
wish your destruction–and are actively working to achieve it —
means strengthening a pernicious enemy.”

The American
Jewish Committee commissioned a poll late last year to ascertain
the views of American Jews on various foreign policy matters,
and found
(h/t EJ):

among Jews for an American military strike against Iran has
declined during the past year, according to an annual survey
of American Jewish opinion released Monday.

The survey,
commissioned by the American Jewish Committee, found that only
38% of American Jews support American military action, down
from 49% last year.

of course, 3 out of 4 American Jews voted
George Bush in 2004, notwithstanding the fact that
(or because) Bush’s Middle East militarism was a predominant issue
in the campaign. Despite their influence, Jewish neoconservatives
and groups like AIPAC are highly unrepresentative of American
Jews as a whole. Those facts only further undescore the baselessness
and pure malice driving the attempt to equate opposition to their
agenda with “anti-semitism.”

5, 2007

Greenwald [send him mail]
is the author of How
Would a Patriot Act?
See his blog Unclaimed
, where this first appeared.

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