Justin Raimondo: Obama, the Lobby, and the Next War

By Justin Raimondo

It had to happen sooner or later, and Barack Obama’s startling rise to near the top of the Democratic presidential pack made it sooner – I’m talking about his speech to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). It starts out with a riff about his ride in an IDF helicopter and how this made him "truly see how close everything is and why peace through security is the only way for Israel." But of course the Palestinians are just as close to the Israelis as the Israelis are to them – and the Israelis have far more arms (provided by the U.S.) and are surely not averse to using them. So what is "the only way" for the Palestinians? Yet there can be no "peace through security" for the Palestinians, since there is no security from Israeli air strikes and repeated invasions of Palestinian territory.

The maudlin emotionalism of Obama’s appeal is nowhere more apparent than in this speech, and nowhere more inappropriately one-sided. But, here, listen to Obama tell it:

"Our helicopter landed in the town of Kiryat Shmona on the border. What struck me first about the village was how familiar it looked. The houses and streets looked like ones you might find in a suburb in America. I could imagine young children riding their bikes down the streets. I could imagine the sounds of their joyful play just like my own daughters. There were cars in the driveway. The shrubs were trimmed. The families were living their lives."

Oh, please spare us! Does Mr. Obama really not know that there are – or were – similar communities in the occupied territories? Does he really not know that countless Palestinian villages – with "houses and streets like you might find in a suburb in America" – have been demolished by Israeli tractors? Can Obama imagine a young Palestinian child riding his bike down the street – can he imagine his joyful play? Can he imagine a car in the driveway, the shrubs trimmed – the families living their lives in the moment before the Israelis wiped it all out in their ruthless campaign of conquest and ethnic cleansing?

Of course he can’t – if he wants to be president of the United States, that is. Israeli lives are more important, more valuable than Palestinian lives: that is what the occupant of the Oval Office must believe, or, if he doesn’t quite believe it, then he must keep quiet about it and act as if he does. Otherwise, he’ll never make it to the White House. Obama knows this, and therefore "forgot" to put the events in Kiryat Shmona into their proper context:

"Just six months after I visited, Hezbollah launched four thousand rocket attacks just like the one that destroyed the home in Kiryat Shmona, and kidnapped Israeli service members."

Oh, really? There seems to be something left out of this account – the Israeli re-invasion of Lebanon. A minor thing, really – after all, only 1,200 people, most all of them civilians, were killed by Israeli bombs – but, still, you’d think that a presidential candidate would know about these things, or, at least, have advisers who know. Of course Obama knows – yet he doesn’t dare speak. The man who touts his early opposition to the Iraq war doesn’t dare say the same about Israel’s war on Lebanon.

As if that wasn’t enough, he went on to endorse yet another prospective war, assuring his audience that he is willing to sign on to both prongs of the renewed Israeli-American aggression in the region. Obama touts his proposal for a "phased redeployment" (never say "withdrawal"!) from Iraq as giving us a chance to focus on the real threat to peace in the region: Iran. Bravely coming out against Holocaust denial – that Obama sure is a risk-taker! – this rising Democratic star delivered a truly Orwellian account of the Lebanese-Israeli war:

"When Israel is attacked, we must stand up for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself. Last summer, Hezbollah attacked Israel. By using Lebanon as an outpost for terrorism, and innocent people as shields, Hezbollah has also engulfed that entire nation in violence and conflict, and threatened the fledgling movement for democracy there. That’s why we have to press for enforcement of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which demands the cessation of arms shipments to Hezbollah, a resolution which Syria and Iran continue to disregard. Their support and shipment of weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas, which threatens the peace and security in the region, must end."

Apparently when Israel was bombing factories, water facilities, Christian churches, and the barracks of the Lebanese army, this, too, was "self-defense." If the IDF attacked, say, Kazakhstan, on the grounds that the Kazakhs were supplying the Arabs with weapons, or whatever, Obama and the pro-Israel liberals would maintain that Israel has the "right" to "defend" itself by leveling that country to the ground. And, of course, the Lebanese have no right to defend themselves, no right to accept arms from anyone who will send them – but Israel has the "right" to unlimited military and economic aid from the U.S. (which Obama, naturally, supports).

"We should all be concerned," avers Arianna Huffington’s preferred candidate, "about the agreement negotiated among Palestinians in Mecca last month" – after all, this means that the Palestinians won’t be killing each other, that their democratically elected government may just be able to function, and that the ever recalcitrant Israelis may even have to negotiate with them (perish the thought!). We all know Israeli lives are worth more than Palestinian lives – so who cares if the Palies are slaughtering each other? It goes way beyond irony to see a black man exhibit such shameless racism – but, then again, I’m not surprised. What else do you expect from a Democratic Party hack, a world-class panderer, the product of the biggest, baddest, most notorious political machine in the country?

Obama quails at the very thought that the Palestinians would have a government that includes Hamas, but nowhere does he mention that Hamas was elected. Nor does the presence of the party of Avigdor Lieberman in the Israeli government raise so much as an eyebrow. Israel is praised by Obama for being "the only established democracy," but Palestinian elections and Israeli elections – like Palestinian lives and Israeli lives – are not to be equated.

We must, in Obama’s view, "begin" all considerations of our policy in the region with "Israel’s security," but of course we must ask for nothing for ourselves. According to Obama, we have no right to ask the Israelis anything in exchange for the billions we give them in "aid," or the political support we give to their most indefensible policies:

"In the end, we also know that we should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests. No Israeli prime minister should ever feel dragged to or blocked from the negotiating table by the United States."

In the case of Israel and the United States, and their much vaunted "special relationship," the tail is truly wagging the dog. After all, what other country so dependent on American taxpayer dollars would we be afraid to pressure? What other nation on earth would be the recipient of so much U.S. largess and still be defiant when it comes to making concessions to American interests? And the Lobby isn’t through yet. Israel and its American amen corner are pushing hard for a U.S. strike on Iran, and Obama is ready to push the button:

"The world must work to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy. And while we should take no option, including military action, off the table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons."

There are so many levels of hypocrisy and bad faith here that one could write volumes exploring them all, but this will have to suffice: Although Iran, which is a signatory to the Nonproliferation Treaty, has the right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful uses, Israel, which has not signed the treaty, is allowed to possess nukes. Iran is a "radical theocracy" – but Israel, a nation founded on religion (by terrorists) is not. For a moment, there, Obama must have gotten confused and thought he was running for prime minister of Israel. Other politicians have gone to AIPAC, made the required noises, and hoped for the best, but this is really an oath of fealty quite beyond what even the vehemently pro-Israel Hillary Clinton has been willing to say. The difference is that Obama, unlike Clinton, frames the issue in ideological and religious terms: Iran, says Obama, is a "radical theocracy," and those crazy Muslims can’t be trusted with a nuclear program, even for ostensibly peaceful purposes.

When push comes to shove, Obama is ready to attack Iran – if "aggressive diplomacy" (i.e., punishing economic sanctions and endless provocation) fails to do the job. This is a reality Obama’s liberal "antiwar" supporters must come to grips with, and somehow rationalize, before they sign on with his campaign.

Now that the war in Iraq is quite obviously a disaster – even to this guy – those in the Democratic Party who held their opposition close to the vest or else openly supported the invasion are now rushing to the exits, declaring that they had doubts all along. It’s easy to be antiwar these days, at least when it comes to the present war. The real danger, however, is the next war, as I’ve pointed out before. And there are blessed few who are fighting that fight, because the Lobby is hell-bent on the U.S. attacking Iran.

As Wesley Clark, Matt Yglesias, and others have pointed out, the big Democratic contributors are hard-liners when it comes to pursuing Israeli interests. Iran represents a threat to Israel, therefore Iran must be destroyed – and the U.S. alone is capable of doing it. It’s as simple as that. And woe unto those who don’t agree…

Obama went before AIPAC, skillfully executed the ritualized gestures of obeisance without too brazenly defying his antiwar constituency, and in this way proved his mettle. The exact meaning of this ceremony was prefigured in "The Israel Lobby," a Harvard University study by Professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt:

"The goal is to prevent critical comments from getting a fair hearing in the political arena. Controlling the debate is essential to guaranteeing U.S. support, because a candid discussion of U.S.-Israeli relations might lead Americans to favor a different policy."

The Democratic candidates have all prostrated themselves before the Lobby and pledged their undying fealty to a foreign policy distorted by its pro-Israel bias. This distortion was given full voice by Obama, who declared that our interest in the region "begins with a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel." Yes, begins – and ends. That has been the story for far too long, and a major cause of our troubles with the Muslim world. Obama has just signaled that this will not change under his leadership. How his antiwar supporters will take this – especially Obama’s stated willingness to go to war with Iran – is an open question, but my guess is that many are bound to be sorely disappointed.

Far be it from me to disparage anybody who touts a presidential candidate rather more than is deserved just because they’re hopeful that someone will rescue us from the consequences of a reckless and increasingly dangerous foreign policy. My preferred objects of undue affection are nearly always Republicans or third-party candidates: I admit to being harder on Democrats, if only because they promise so much more and deliver so much less.

But Obama is a horse of an entirely different color, and, no, I’m not talking about his skin color. He is not an alternative to the still hawkish Democratic Party establishment – hawkish, that is, compared to the average American voter – but only the appearance of one. He’s all form and no content – a perfect replica of rebellion for the new millennium: slick, bromidic, and phony as all get-out. He’s the Democrats’ Wendell Willkie, the man who came out of nowhere, a public relations creation. Obama will disarm the Left on account of his color and overwhelm the Right on the sheer strength of his star power. Or so his strategists dream. In the end, however, our foreign policy will remain pretty much the same: aggressive, arrogant, and the cause of our ultimate undoing. 

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