June 17, 2002
When George W. Bush was invited to speak to the graduating class of Ohio State University, the students were given a few, uh, suggestions:
"Immediately before class members filed into the giant football stadium, an announcer instructed the crowd that all the university's speakers deserve to be treated with respect and that anyone demonstrating or heckling would be subject to expulsion and arrest. The announcer urged that Bush be greeted with a 'thunderous' ovation."
Or else. And, you know what? The applause was thunderous. That's why they call them "slackers" the little wimps. Maybe they'll wake up when the Bushies draft them, and send them to Iraq.
Land of the free, home of the brave? Not anymore. Of late there has been what seems like a conscious effort to scare Americans half to death, what with an alleged "dirty bomber" who turns out to have been nothing of the sort, and color-coded alerts coming so fast and furious that one can hardly keep track. But, then again, it wasn't all that hard to scare the bejesus out of them, because Americans are so easily intimidated, these days – and Bush himself is no exception: indeed, he is a prime example of the New Cowardice.
You'll remember, a few weeks ago, when the President of these United States decided to stand up to Ariel Sharon and rein in our Israeli "allies" well, that didn't last very long, now did it? Israel's amen corner in the US immediately went into action "Let's roll!" and Karl Rove put the kibosh on our chief executive's display of independence but quick. By the time Sharon arrived in Washington on a hurriedly-scheduled visit, Dubya was already putty in the Israeli Prime Minister's hot little hands. So much so that the Butcher of Beirut felt bold enough to lobby for the release of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. As New York Post writer Uri Dan triumphantly noted:
"The only 'no' that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon heard from President Bush last week in their White House meeting came when he asked the president to look into the case of Jonathan Pollard . Sharon was not surprised by the negative response to his Pollard query because he raised the case in a previous meeting with Bush."
I guess it's too much to expect that Dubya brought up those Israeli "art students" who took such an inordinate interest in pushing their "artwork" at US government offices in the months before 9/11, especially in South Florida and Texas. Even The Forward concedes they were probably spies, but god forbid our spineless elected officials not to mention the "mainstream" media would dare to bring it up. In the former case, they're too busy kowtowing to AIPAC and in the latter case, they're much too preoccupied with fending off charges of "anti-Semitism" from "pro-Israel activists" every time they mention the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
"Otherwise," Dan happily reports, "the sixth Bush-Sharon summit was conducted 'in complete harmony' on Mideast issues."
By the way, it's interesting to note Mr. Dan's idea of Pollard's crimes. According to the New York Post school of revisionist history:
"Pollard was convicted of supplying top-value intelligence data to Israel about Palestinian terrorist threats and about Saddam Hussein's ground-to-ground missiles, long before "scud" became a household name. Pollard offered to spy because he feared Israel was endangered by being denied the data – despite an intelligence-sharing agreement between Washington and Jerusalem."
Not quite. Eric Margolis, reporting in the Toronto Sun, isn't alone in saying that Pollard gave the Israelis the names of US agents inside the former Soviet Union, and that these secrets were sold or bartered by Israel to the Kremlin. As Seymour Hersh pointed out in his exhaustive review of the Pollard case:
"A number of officials strongly suspect that the Israelis repackaged much of Pollard's material and provided it to the Soviet Union in exchange for continued Soviet permission for Jews to emigrate to Israel. Other officials go further, and say there was reason to believe that secret information was exchanged for Jews working in highly sensitive positions in the Soviet Union. A significant percentage of Pollard's documents, including some that described the techniques the American Navy used to track Soviet submarines around the world, was of practical importance only to the Soviet Union."
It was one of the biggest intelligence losses in American history: a large number of CIA East Bloc agents were executed due to Pollard's betrayal, and the Soviets gained access to top secret US codes. Yet Dan avers that media reports about the KGB's access to Pollard's stolen data were "without any basis" due, no doubt, to "anti-Semitism." And while Prime Minister Ehud Barak was more concerned about the fate of Marc Rich,
"[I]t was left to Sharon to take on the moral duty of raising the Pollard issue again – just as he and Bush were discussing the same issues, terrorism and Iraq, to which Pollard had alerted Israel 17 years ago."
In whitewashing and outright lying about the details of the Pollard catastrophe, Uri Dan may think he is taking on the same sort of "moral duty" the "duty," that is, to put Israel first, and America second. In this, Dan is merely applying the same principle that seems to govern US Mideast policy, as underscored by the last three lines of his piece:
"Bush stressed that the United States regards Iraq as the biggest threat to Mideast stability.
"'Israel will be safer without Saddam,' he said.
"Ariel Sharon couldn't agree more."
He's right. Israel will be safer but what about the US? How many thousands of new recruits will flock to Al Qaeda as a result of a massive American invasion of Iraq ten, twenty, a hundred-thousand or more? Ah, but Ariel Sharon couldn't care less and for that no one can honestly blame him. He, after all, is looking out for his own country, first. Too bad we can't say the same about George W. Bush.
For a while there, it looked like Dubya was turning pro-American. He was telling the Israelis to negotiate with Arafat, hailing the Saudi peace proposal, and putting off the Iraq attack indefinitely or at least until Tel Aviv reached some sort of interim settlement with the Palestinians. But now he seems to have veered, almost drunkenly, in the other direction, cuddling up to Sharon, waffling on the Palestinian question, and renewing his vow to fight Israel's battle against Iraq. The Saudi peace plan sits on a shelf, forgotten, amid rumors of Colin Powell's impending resignation.
How do we account for this turnaround and in a matter of a few weeks?
Lacking an inside source within the administration, a "Deep Throat" willing to give us the scoop on the battle for the presidential soul, we can only fall back on the default explanation: politics – specifically, Republican party politics. An alliance of the Religious Right and the small but influential neoconservative wing of the GOP simply overpowered the Bushies: the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells, who had mobilized for Dubya in the Southern GOP presidential primaries – to crucial effect – launched a similar effort on behalf of Israel. As Robertson and Falwell commanded their followers to contact their congressional representatives in order to "save Israel," the neocons made the case for Israel in more secular, but hardly less fervent terms. John McCain waited in the wings, not quite daring to openly engage the President on the issue while likely Democratic presidential candidate Senator Joe Lieberman joined the growing chorus of complaints on the Right that the President was going "soft."
The main reason for the apparent triumph of the Israel-firsters is inherent in the nature of the democratic state, which operates on the old principle of the squeaky wheel gets the grease. A dedicated minority, if passionate and dedicated enough, can indeed overcome the rather more passively expressed wishes of the majority and impose its own agenda especially in the realm of foreign policy. A member of Congress, who must stand for election every two years, can hardly afford to ignore hundreds of calls, faxes, and emails – especially when they aren't coming in from the other side.
So it doesn't matter that most Americans are sick of the shenanigans engaged in by both sides, and think it's time to cut down on aid to Israel or, at least, use whatever leverage the aid gives us over Israel to rein in Sharon. Under the rules of our "democracy," the well-funded, and very well-organized Israeli lobby is an effective road bloc to implementation of majority opinion.
The goal of the Israeli lobby has been clear, consistent, and double-pronged: 1) isolate the US in the Middle East by divorcing Washington from Riyadh and Cairo, and Amman, and 2) divert the Americans away from making war on Al Qaeda, and redirect their energies to taking on Israel's most dangerous enemies in the Middle East. The "axis of evil" speech was a major victory for them, as Iran was included alongside Iraq and North Korea as a target of opportunity for the US. After a few reverses, they seem once again in the ascendant but the civil war inside the Bush administration is far from over.
The opinion of the Joint Chiefs is not exactly a veto, but it is a very strong factor for any President to consider when contemplating the prospect of a war. Their leaked objections to the military conquest of Iraq were a sign of their desperation for the story in the Washington Post was nothing less than an attempt to go over the heads of top policymakers, and appeal directly to the public. For Bush to overrule his generals, and throw in his lot with the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Perle crowd, would be an irrevocable act – and, as such, should not be taken lightly.
As to which way the President will eventually go, I am not prepared to say: only to hope that, for once, the squeaky wheel will be denied the grease, so that the rest of us can live in peace.
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