The most exciting revelation in the Colin Powell emails, broken by Eli Clifton after the emails were hacked and published by people calling themselves DCLeaks, is that the former secretary of state chatted openly about the fact that Israel has nuclear weapons pointed directly at Iran to socialite/financier Jeffrey Leeds.
Powell, who is surely richly rewarded to sit on the board of Leeds’s financial firm, gabbed about the nukes last year after Leeds prodded him, “Did you see Netanyahu’s speech [to Congress]?” and said the speech was “strong… stuff.” Powell didn’t buy that:
Negotiators can’t get what he wants. Anyway, Iranians can’t use one if they finally make one. The boys in Tehran know Israel has 200, all targeted on Tehran, and we have thousands. As Akmdinijad (sp) “What would we do with one, polish it?” I have spoken publicly about both nK and Iran. We’ll blow up the only thing they care about—regime survival. Where, how would they even test one?
It is of course an open secret of nearly 50 years standing in Washington that Israel has nuclear weapons. But a hypocritical American policy was also set 50 years ago: the White House would repeat Israel’s promise not to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East. Behind the scenes the U.S. cooperated with the nuclear program, and urged Israel to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, but publicly, our government would parrot the claim of “nuclear ambiguity.”
President Obama has continued the charade.
And meantime Colin Powell states the fact openly to a man-about-town business partner (who has given a ton of money to Democratic and Republican establishment candidates and was married by Rudy Giuliani and gossips about Hillary Clinton’s health issues).
The most important element of the Powell revelation, though, is the context. A friend points Powell to Netanyahu’s speech (to a dual loyalty Congress) against the Iran deal; and this is Powell’s very first argument. “Iranians can’t use one if they finally make one.” Because Israel has a ton of nukes. Not even the old Mutual Assured Destruction doctrine that preserved peace between the U.S. and the F.S.U. — but self-destruction.
The context is important because while it is, to repeat, the very first argument Powell makes for the deal, no one was making that argument openly at the time. Powell himself went on Meet the Press a few months later, and didn’t dare say a word about Israeli nukes. Neither did President Obama in pushing the deal, which he did by making countless assurances about Israel’s security to wavering Congresspeople. Neither did any of the Democratic leaders who pushed the Iran deal.
Even worse, though, is the press silence about Israeli nukes. Jim Fallows was among the most eloquent defenders of the deal, in long pieces here and here. Not a word about Israeli nukes. He couldn’t make what he had to know was the strongest argument. The New York Times ran a long editorial in favor of the deal last summer. But again, it did not mention the foremost argument for the deal in the eyes of Colin Powell. “Iranians can’t use one.”
Only realists made this argument, and they marginalized themselves by doing so. Steve Walt addressed Israeli nukes frankly in this Foreign Policy piece, but of course he’s out as an Israel critic.
Bottom line: The most important foreign policy decision of the last eight years, and Americans are having a false conversation about it.
The ultimate question here is, Why the self censorship? Why do smart people abide by an official lie when it is plainly in the public interest for them to tell the truth?
The simple answer is that Israel doesn’t want people to say it has nukes, and the Israel lobby enforces that discretion inside the mainstream media. James Fallows does not state baldly that Israel has nukes because to do so would be to endanger his own perch in the media. On Meet the Press, Colin Powell holds his tongue on what he believes is the strongest argument in favor of the deal because he would violate the mainstream rules by doing so, and thereby endanger his access to the press, along with his $75,000 speaking fees (the usual traffic in all those hacked emails).
No doubt there are a lot of undercurrents/beliefs/propaganda working here — Jewish fears about annihilation after the Holocaust (which Netanyahu played like a violin), the Jewish presence in the U.S. establishment, and the belief among members of the establishment that Israel needs nukes in order to preserve its security in a tough neighborhood and Jews are responsible with the bomb. But again we are still left with the fact that on a matter of the greatest concern to the American public, our leaders could not tell the truth, and Israeli concerns trumped the American national interest. That’s a real problem. And the mainstream press is deeply implicated.