The Iraq war coverup: What did AIPAC do and when did it do it?

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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Howard Kohr
Howard Kohr of AIPAC

As I pointed out yesterday, the Center for American Progress (CAP), a Democratic-Party-linked thinktank in D.C., has met quietly with officials of the Israel lobby group AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and explicitly sought to squelch suggestions by its own journalists that AIPAC is pushing war on Iran.

Notably it squelched a CAP blogger, Eli Clifton, who wrote in August at the thinktank’s site that AIPAC’s summons to Congress for sanctions on Iran “brings to mind eery parallels” to its campaign for Iraq sanctions that paved the way for that stupid war. Clifton’s piece concluded:

It would appear that AIPAC is now using the same escalating measures against Iran that were used before the invasion of Iraq.

But in December the thinktank came under heat from a neocon smear campaign that accused Clifton and others of anti-Semitism, and CAP put its tail between its legs and stuck a long amendment to Clifton’s piece, kinda eviscerating it:

we want to make clear that we are not reporting on whether AIPAC lobbied for the Iraq war.

Also as a matter of clarification, international sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, particularly those engineered by the Obama administration, are useful…

What is the truth here?

Though AIPAC wants to deny it now, it lobbied for the Iraq war. And CAP is participating in a coverup.

Here’s the data:

Back in 2000, AIPAC specifically worked to ramp up sanctions on Iraq because of its “weapons of mass destruction.” Remember them? In March 2000, AIPAC circulated an Action Alert to Congress, urging its members to put pressure on Congress to pressure the Clinton administration.

If sanctions were lifted, Saddam could spend the oil revenue to accelerate Iraq’s military programs rather than on the humanitarian needs of Iraqi citizens.

It is essential that you contact your representative today and urge them to sign the letter to President Clinton:

Very similar to the Iran sanctions AIPAC pushed last summer.

Then in April 2003, according to JWeekly, AIPAC rose up against a congressional effort led by California Republican Tom Campbell, then taking on Dianne Feinstein in a Senate race, to weaken those sanctions:

The military threat from Iraq is a major concern of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which favors retaining economic sanctions.

“Lifting sanctions wouldn’t benefit the Iraqi people,” said Amy Friedkin, an AIPAC national vice president who lives in San Francisco. Rather, it would enable Saddam to obtain more oil money, and use it to amass more weapons. That would constitute a danger to the rest of the Middle East and the world, she added…

Campbell and his allies are now rallying behind H.R. 3825, legislation by Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) that would allow U.S. companies to export food and medicine to Iraq outside of the U.N. oil-for-food program. Campbell and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) are among the bill’s co-sponsors.

Friedkin said AIPAC opposes the bill, although the organization recognizes the sponsors’ “very compassionate reasons” for proposing it.

Elliot Brandt, AIPAC’s Pacific Northwest regional director, said: “AIPAC has no desire to hurt the people of Iraq, but we have a vested interest in hurting Saddam Hussein’s ability to build weapons of mass destruction. Rather than blaming the sanctions for hurting the people of Iraq, we should be putting the blame on Saddam Hussein, who is cynically and cruelly using his people as a political card to generate sympathy and support.”

Talk about eery parallels: When Obama tried to stop sanctions on the Iran Central Bank, AIPAC posterized Obama in the Senate 100-0 last December.

Let’s skip forward to the Iraq war itself, 2003.

In The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, Walt and Mearsheimer clearly show that AIPAC pushed the Iraq war, though quietly.

AIPAC usually supports what Israel wants, and Israel certainly wanted the United States to invade Iraq. Nathan Guttman made this very connection in his reporting [in Haaretz, April 2003] on AIPAC’s annual conference in the spring of 2003, shortly after the war started: “AIPAC is wont to support whatever is good for Israel, and so long as Israel supports the war, so too do the thousands of the AIPAC lobbyists who convened in the American capital.” AIPAC executive director Howard Kohr’s statement to the New York Sun in January 2003 is even more revealing, as he acknowledged “‘quietly’ lobbying Congress to approve the use of force in Iraq” was one of “AIPAC’s successes over the past year.” And in a lengthy New Yorker profile of Steven J. Rosen, who was AIPAC’s policy director during the run-up to the Iraq war, Jeffrey Goldberg reported that “AIPAC lobbied Congress in favor of the Iraq war.” 

Dana Milbank reported in the Washington Post on that AIPAC conference as the Iraq war began:

Officially, AIPAC had no position on the merits of a war against Iraq before it started. Officially, Iraq is not the subject of the pro-Israel lobby’s three-day meeting here.

Now, for the unofficial part:

As delegates to the AIPAC meeting were heading to town, the group put a headline on its Web site proclaiming: “Israeli Weapons Utilized By Coalition Forces Against Iraq.” The item featured a photograph of a drone with the caption saying the “Israeli-made Hunter Unmanned Aerial Vehicle” is being used “by U.S. soldiers in Iraq.”

At an AIPAC session on Sunday night, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom proclaimed in a speech praising Secretary of State Colin L. Powell: “We have followed with great admiration your efforts to mobilize the international community to disarm Iraq and bring democracy and peace to the region, to the Middle East and to the rest of the world. Just imagine, Mr. Secretary, how much easier it would have been if Israel had been a member of the Security Council.”

The clear thrust of this information is that AIPAC wanted a war but didn’t want its fingerprints on the war. So it has cried foul whenever anyone has called it out.

In 2007 Virginia Congressman James Moran said that AIPAC had pushed the Iraq war in comments to Tikkun:

He said that AIPAC was in favor of the Iraq war and “pushed this war from the beginning.” And he claimed that on the Iraq war, AIPAC didn’t represent “the mainstream of American Jewish thinking at all.”

But Moran got slammed for saying this. Matt Yglesias, then at CAP himself, was fabulous on this point back in ’07, a post bracingly titled AIPAC and Iraq:

One of the odder notions to take hold in recent years is that AIPAC specifically, and the so-called “Israel lobby” more generally had absolutely nothing to do with the Iraq War, and that anyone who says otherwise is an anti-semite. As John Judis writes for The New Republic, however, this is just false:

‘At the time, a Senate staff person with a responsibility for foreign policy told me of AIPAC’s lobbying. But I don’t have to rely on my memory. AIPAC’s lobbying wasn’t widely reported because AIPAC didn’t want Arab states, whose support the Bush administration was soliciting, to be able to tie Bush’s plans to Israel, but it lobbied nonetheless. In September 2002, before Congress had begun considering the administration’s proposal authorizing force with Iraq, Rebecca Needler, a spokeswoman for AIPAC, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “If the president asks Congress to support action in Iraq, AIPAC would lobby members of Congress to support him.” Then at an AIPAC meeting in New York in January 2003, before the war began, but after Congress had voted to authorize Bush to go to war, Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s executive director, boasted of AIPAC’s success in lobbying for the war. Reported the New York Sun, “According to Mr. Kohr, AIPAC’s successes over the past year also include guaranteeing Israel’s annual aid package and ‘quietly’ lobbying Congress to approve the use of force in Iraq.”’

And, obviously, other institutions of the hawkish “pro-Israel” establishment — the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Saban Center, JINSA, The New York Sun, The New Republic, etc. — all advocated strongly in favor of invasion. That’s not to say that “the Jews caused the war” (I think Bush, Cheney, Blair, Powell, Rumsfeld, Rice, etc. had a little something to do with it) but it’s still true.

To answer Yglesias, some Jews really did push the Iraq war, out of a perceived Jewish interest– supporting Israel right or wrong. They’re neoconservatives, well represented at AIPAC.

The best way to oppose war against Iran is not just to say, We’re against it, but to identify who is pushing for it.

AIPAC and the neoconservative lobby are back to their old tricks, pushing sanctions on Iran, and saber-rattling too. Eery parallels indeed.

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