Hagel hearing word count: Israel 178, Iran 171, military suicides 2

Israel/Palestine
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Hagel word cloud
Hagel word cloud

In “Why Hagel Laid Down,” Peter Beinart concedes that Obama/Chuck Hagel’s strategy of pulling in his horns and rolling over on any criticism of Israel in the confirmation hearing on Thursday has set back Beinart’s dream of attaining a two-state solution in the next four years with pressure from the U.S.

But if the aim of the hearings was also to begin building a case for Obama’s second term foreign policy—a foreign policy that brings military spending into balance with economic resources and aggressively pursues diplomacy with Iran, and maybe Israel and the Palestinians too—Hagel failed. And if he continues to fail as a foreign policy spokesman once confirmed, that second term agenda will be harder to achieve.

Yousef Munayyer offers a snapshot of the Hagel confirmation hearing Thursday, using computer technology to generate a “word cloud,” above, that assigns the visual weight to a word that it had in terms of its repetition in the transcript:

It’s clear that “Israel” stole the show. “Iran,” which was nearly as prevalent as “Israel,” was discussed as an issue intertwined with Israel and contextualized through the prism of Israeli interests.

Now, let’s play a game. See if you can find the following words in the cloud.

(Answers below – don’t cheat!)

Afghanistan: Those living in the U.S. who follow mainstream media coverage may be unaware but this is a country in central Asia where the United States has been militarily involved longer than any other military campaign in its history; it also currently has about 70,000 troops troops there. There have been over 3,000 coalition deaths in Afghanistan, over 2,000 of which were American troops. Countless civilians have been killed or wounded during the fighting.

China: Close to a billion and a half people live in this communist nation that also has several hundred nuclear weapons, borders several significant regional players (some of which it has had increasing tense relations with) and is the U.S.’s largest overseas trading partner.

Drones: Perhaps the most controversial of President Obama’s national security policies has been the dramatic escalation in the use of unmanned drones to kill adversaries (including American citizens) and very often civilians.

Pakistan: This country borders Afghanistan, is an unstable nuclear power, and has been the target of hundreds of American drone strikes leaving thousands dead, hundreds of which were civilians, including many children.

Guantanamo: The location of a controversial American prison camp which the President first promised to close before later back-tracking.

International Law: That set of rules and norms agreed upon by states that help govern inter-state relations and, perhaps most importantly, determine what is legal and illegal during war.

Jim Lobe echoes the analysis with his own numbers in, “It’s all about Israel”:

..the epidemic of suicides among U.S. troops – a necessary concern for any incoming Pentagon chief – was addressed only twice.

In fact, the degree to which Israel and the threat posed to it by Iran dominated the hearing was somewhat understated by Buzzfeed. The full transcript revealed that Israel was brought up no less than 178 times, followed closely by Iran with 171 mentions.

Those numbers compared with a grand total of five mentions of China, the central focus of the Obama administration’s much ballyhooed “pivot” from the Middle East to the Asia/Pacific; one mention (by Hagel himself) of Japan, Washington’s closest Asian ally whose territorial dispute with China has recently escalated to dangerous levels; and one mention of South Korea, Washington’s other major treaty ally in Northeast Asia.

Similarly, NATO, Washington’s historically most important military alliance – and one with which it fought a successful air war in Libya last year and is currently fighting its 12th year in Afghanistan – warranted a total of five mentions.

“It is extraordinary that, in an eight-hour hearing, as little attention was devoted as it was to issues such as China and NATO, which ought to be near the top of the concerns for any secretary of defence of the United States,” said Paul Pillar, a former top CIA analyst who served as the National Intelligence Officer for the Near and South Asia from 2000 to 2005.

“The emphasis on Israel and Iran – which, in American politics, has become for the most part an Israel issue – demonstrates that the senators were far less concerned with the strategic questions that the secretary of defence should be focused on and much more interested in trying to defeat a nominee who has strayed from political orthodoxy, especially on issues related to Israel,” he told IPS.

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