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February 10, 2009

Lobby? What Lobby?


by Michael Scheuer

Last December, I spoke to the nonpartisan Jamestown Foundation's annual conference on al-Qaeda. My talk was a worldwide survey of how America's war against Islamism had gone in 2008; an analysis of al-Qaeda's current fortunes and growth potential; and an assessment of whether U.S. policies were adequately protecting genuine U.S. national interests as the Obama administration began. I concluded that 2008 was a year of setbacks for America, and that the future appeared rather bleak.

For the speech, I took as my text a truncated version of the introduction I wrote for the paperback edition of my book, Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq. In preparing the new text I was pleased to find my predictions in the hardcover had been accurate, but saddened that Americans had not faced the fact that our Islamist foes are motivated by U.S. foreign policies and their impact. One policy I am critical of in Marching Toward Hell is the nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship. I argued that unqualified, bipartisan support for Israel damages U.S. national security, and I damned those who identify critics of the relationship as anti-American, anti-Semitic, or, in my case, according to AIPAC leader Morris J. Amitay, a man who would make Mein Kampf "required reading" at the CIA.

In the course of analyzing 2008 events, I found no reason to alter my view. And after hearing McCain and Obama during the campaign, there was no reason to expect change in Washington's Israel policy. At the Jamestown Conference, I therefore first discussed the abject failure of President Bush and his advisers to recognize that al-Qaeda and its allies are waging war because of U.S. policies one of which is Israel policy and not because of our lifestyle and domestic politics.

I next offered an estimate of Mr. Obama's potential to change these terrorism-motivating policies. While admitting an inability to read Obama's mind, I noted that he had given at least two strong hints to Americans and the Muslim world that he would be as pro-Israel as Mr. Bush. I noted that (a) Mr. Obama spent the last months of the presidential campaign "dancing the Tel Aviv two-step," promising to protect Israel as if it were located inside the United States; and (b) Obama appointed Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, a U.S. citizen who during the 1991 Gulf War left America to serve in Israel's military.

These statements of fact suggested to me that U.S. policy toward Israel and the Muslim world would be identical to Mr. Bush's, albeit couched in softer, come-let-us-reason-together rhetoric.

My speech seemed well received, but in January I received a call from Jamestown's president telling me I had been terminated as a senior fellow by the Foundation's board of directors. Why, I asked? He responded by citing my comments about Obama doing the "Tel Aviv two-step" and my description of Emanuel's record, both of which he said might be in a speech by Rep. Ron Paul. My remarks about Emanuel apparently sparked particular anger among the Foundation's directors, as Jamestown's president referred to them at least three times in a short telephone conversation. In any event, the president said several major financial donors to Jamestown threatened to withdraw funding if I remained a senior fellow, so I was getting the boot. Then he added that my every-other-week essays for Jamestown's Terrorism Focus had attracted readers and praise for the Foundation, so the directors said I could keep writing for the journal. I declined this honor, which seemingly was a bribe made in the hope that I would not speak publicly about being terminated as a senior fellow for saying the current state of the U.S.-Israel relationship undermined U.S. national security.

I regret leaving Jamestown, as I have great respect for its analysis on several vital U.S. security issues. But at the same time, I am grateful to the Foundation's directors for terminating me. In the hardcover of Marching Toward Hell, I condemned the U.S.-Israel relationship and those who take it "upon themselves to decide who is and who is not a 'good American,'" based on his or her views of U.S.-Israel relations, and "then mete out punishment to those of their countrymen who do not make the grade." At the time, my view was based on what pro-Israel U.S. citizens had done to Pat Buchanan, President Carter, and Professors Walt and Mearsheimer.

Now, however, I have the personal experience of losing both position and income for condemning Washington's status quo Israel policy as a threat to U.S. national security. The introduction to my paperback, therefore, can be said to be credibly written by an author with firsthand knowledge of how the Israel Lobby works. After my experience with the "nonpartisan" board of directors at Jamestown, I can only say of them what FDR said of his domestic foes: "They are unanimous in their hatred for me and I welcome their hatred."

 

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Michael Scheuer is a 22-year veteran of the CIA and the author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror.

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