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AIPAC Undermining America and Israel’s Best Interests
The current issue of J., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California, has an illuminating article on the misguided agenda of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The article describes AIPAC’s “consensus issue” as Iran’s alleged nuclear threat, and states how Dick Cheney and others won applause by linking the Iraq war to combating the “menace that is posed by the Iranian regime.” But AIPAC members appear to have forgotten that the chief enemy of Iran was Saddam Hussein, who the U.S. overthrew to install an pro-Iranian Iraqi government. And Iran’s other chief opponent in the region was the Taliban of Afghanistan, also overthrown by the Bush Administration. With half the US Senate and more than half of the House attending AIPAC’s dinner, you would think that someone would have offered the group a recent history lesson.
While progressives frequently criticize AIPAC, nobody has accused the group of being politically naïve. But that’s the only conclusion that can be reached after many of the group’s members gave huge applause to the Bush Administration warmongers who linked the Iraq war and “surge” to the struggle to contain Iran.
Bush’s role in eliminating Iran’s enemies is undisputed, but the media has failed to connect the Iraq war to White House claims that the Iranian “threat” is escalating. Nor have many politicians. For example, longtime Iraq war backer Hilary Clinton announced last week that American should keep troops permanently in Iraq, precisely because of this alleged threat from Iran.
by ron kampeas
washington | AIPAC’s annual policy conference is truly a come-one, come-all event, with a “roll call” at the gala dinner announcing the hundreds of VIPs in attendance. But this year, one uninvited guest kept turning up: the Iraq war.
No matter how hard the American Israel Public Affairs Committee tried to keep the record 6,000 activists at its conference focused on the consensus issue of Iran’s nuclear threat, Republicans and Israeli officials kept bringing up what is likely the most divisive issue of the day.
The equation promoted by those who support continuing the war is simple: Israel’s security requires a continued U.S. presence in Iraq, and questioning President Bush’s policy is tantamount to undermining Israel and the United States.
Even Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert weighed in — via a live satellite address — calling for Jews to support the president’s war effort.
Vice President Dick Cheney was rather blunt.
“My friends,” he said, “it is simply not consistent for anyone to demand aggressive action against the menace that is posed by the Iranian regime while at the same time acquiescing in a retreat from Iraq that would leave Israel’s best friend, the United States, dangerously weakened.”
The equation infuriated AIPAC Democrats.
The sniping on Iraq — at one point devolving into scattered boos for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) — ran counter to AIPAC billing that the event would be an unmatched show of bipartisan support for Israel.
But Cheney, who stopped just short of accusing Democrats of sedition, hardly struck a bipartisan tone in defending the war.
He accused Democrats who voted for congressional resolutions opposing the war of “not supporting the troops — they are undermining them.”
When Pelosi spoke Tuesday, March 13, she didn’t mention her opposition to the war until the very end of her 25-minute speech. In that lone reference, she said, “any U.S. military engagement must be judged on three counts — whether it makes our country safer, our military stronger or the region more stable. The war in Iraq fails on all three scores.”
That earned her light applause and a few boos, but overall she reportedly got more applause and standing ovations than any other speaker.
She spoke immediately after House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), who received a standing ovation when he defended the war as vital to both to the United States and Israel. “Who does not believe that failure in Iraq is not a direct threat to the state of Israel?” he asked.
At its dinner, AIPAC drew half the U.S. Senate and more than half of the House. It also featured addresses by Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), its minority leader.
McConnell and Boehner attempted to build support for the administration’s recent deployment of more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) made it the centerpiece of his speech, saying, “There is something profoundly wrong when, in the face of attacks by radical Islam, we think we can find safety and stability by pulling back, by talking to and accommodating our enemies, and abandoning our friends and allies.
“Some of this wrong-headed thinking about the world is happening because we’re in a political climate where, for many people, when George Bush says ‘yes,’ their reflex reaction is to say ‘no.’ That is unacceptable.”
Democrats, speaking on background, said they were unsettled by how Iraq kept intruding into an event dedicated to securing Israel.
Some top AIPAC officials appeared appalled by the advocacy for Bush’s plan to increase troop levels in Iraq.
The reception to Cheney’s speech was lukewarm at best; he earned no more than three standing ovations, and applause was mostly polite.
San Franciscan Amy Friedkin, an AIPAC past president who is close to Pelosi, stared stonily at Cheney’s back as he delivered his warning.
Nevertheless, AIPAC delegates deeply appreciate the unprecedented support the Bush administration has shown Israel. The administration’s high marks — isolating the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, steadfast support for Israel during last summer’s war against Hezbollah and the tough U.S. posture against Iran — were noted by AIPAC President-elect David Victor, who introduced Cheney.
Indeed, Cheney’s references to those issues earned him his strongest unfettered applause.
The attempt to force the Iraq issue into the AIPAC conference appeared coordinated in part by the White House.
AIPAC never explicitly supported or lobbied for the Iraq war, but some in the pro-Israel community once saw the war as an effort that would more closely align the United States and Israel against a common enemy: Arab and Muslim radicalism.