The battle against picking Elliott Abrams for the number two position in the State Department is on. Republican Senator Rand Paul played a crucial role in blocking the naming of John Bolton to that position in December– along with Bolton’s mustache, that is–and Paul issued a statement last night titled, “Do not let Elliott Abrams anywhere near the State Department.” It savaged Abrams as a neoconservative who along with his buddies is dedicated to perpetual war.
I hope against hope that the rumors are wrong and that President Donald Trump will not open the State Department door to the neocons. Crack the door to admit Elliott Abrams and the neocons will scurry in by the hundreds.
Neoconservative interventionists have had us at perpetual war for 25 years. While President Trump has repeatedly stated his belief that the Iraq War was a mistake, the neocons (all of them Never-Trumpers) continue to maintain that the Iraq and Libyan Wars were brilliant ideas. These are the same people who think we must blow up half the Middle East, then rebuild it and police it for decades.
They’re wrong and they should not be given a voice in this administration…
He also said that Trump should hire a realist, not a neocon:
Elliott Abrams is a neoconservative too long in the tooth to change his spots, and the president should have no reason to trust that he would carry out a Trump agenda rather than a neocon agenda.
But just as importantly, Congress has good reason not to trust him — he was convicted of lying to Congress in his previous job.
The Kentucky senator appeared on CNN this afternoon and repeatedly used the phrase “nation-building” but never neoconservative. Wolf Blitzer defended Abrams. He said Abrams had been pardoned for his conviction for lying to Congress. Paul said that didn’t mean he was innocent, it just means he has friends in high places.
The senator went on to say that Abrams poses the danger of creating a “government within a government,” as he and the Iran-Contra co-conspirators did, and fomenting war. Paul also referenced Abrams’s militarism in Guatemala (as we did yesterday and Allan Nairn did brilliantly on Charlie Rose in 1995).
Abrams also supervised, covered up and defended a policy of arming a Guatemalan government undeniably waging war against an indigenous native population. Thousands of the indigenous people of the Ixil region of Guatemala were exterminated. The Guatemalan President was eventually convicted of war crimes. Abrams was an unabashed supporter and organizer of sending arms into this tragic situation.
I bet that Rand Paul did not mention neoconservatism on CNN today– after mentioning it six times as an epithet in throwing down the gauntlet yesterday– because he’d been put on the defensive. This is how it works. Blitzer is a longtime ardent defender of Israel in his own right, and neoconservative Bill Kristol had the night before accused Rand Paul of anti-Semitism for daring to use the verb “scurry in.”
Paul: "neocons will scurry in." Cf. Khalidi: Israel supporters will “infest” Trump admin.
Scurry. Infest. That language has a long history. https://t.co/Q5jbZsnSGv
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) February 7, 2017
The neocons have always wielded the anti-semitism charge to deflect criticism. Paul Wolfowitz once famously said when he was asked about being a neoconservative: “Don’t you mean Jewish?” These guys really ought to publish a dictionary of words you can’t use in criticizing Zionists. It would not be a slim volume.
As for Kristol’s smear of Rashid Khalidi, the Columbia University professor and scholar of the Palestinian question gave a long interview on January 17 to Chicago public radio station WBEZ. Among other comments on the occupation and Trump, Khalidi said:
“There are a group of people, a lot of them in Israel, and some of them in the United States, who live in a world of their own, that is to say they think that whatever they want and whatever cockamamie schemes they can cook up can be substituted for reality. So they have a vision whereby the occupied territories are not occupied, they have a vision whereby there is no such thing as the Palestinians, they have a vision whereby international law doesn’t exist. They have a vision whereby the United States can unilaterally cancel a decision of the United Nation. And unfortunately, these people in fact infest the Trump transition team, these people are going to infest our government as of January 20, and they are hand in glove with a similar group of people in the Israeli government and in Israeli political life who think that whatever they think can be imposed on reality. Well they will live in that little bubble for as long as the Trump administration is here. But there’s going to be a rude shock awaiting them. Because most Americans don’t feel that way.”
Is there even a hint of anti-Semitism in that analysis? No. He doesn’t like the rightwing Israel lobby, and he is telling us as much in no uncertain terms.
Tragically, what has befallen Khalidi since he offered his expert judgment on the peace process is much like what befell Rep. Hank Johnson who at the Democratic convention last summer likened the settlement project to termites. He has been roundly accused of anti-semitism by Israel supporters, and few have stood up for him. As Yakov Hirsch has explained, this is hasbara culture: a social construction of reality that serves a feverish political agenda, and so echoed by a chorus of well-placed Israel supporters (just google Khalidi and infest) that no one dares to challenge.
When anyone who knows Khalidi knows that he is a thoughtful and sophisticated New Yorker who doesn’t give a hoot whether you are Jewish, Muslim, Confucian, whatever. Apparently you’re not allowed to use colorful words when talking about the Israel lobby. The Israel Project did a whole video on Khalidi’s comments, linking them with classic anti-Semitic images. That’s truly vile. The Forward has also smeared Khalidi, headlining its report: “Columbia Professor Accuses Right-Wing Jews of ‘Infesting’ American Politics.” Khalidi never mentioned Jews; he was referring to Zionists. These people should be ashamed.
P.S. Paul should be thanked for injecting the term “perpetual war.” For more, read Abe Foxman saying that American Jews will “divorce” Israel if it is ever at peace, and Israeli politician Yair Lapid justifying the era of permanent, brutal war:
In this new world, in which we live, there is no longer any separation between days of peace and days of war. Faced with this reality, Israel will always need to be powerful and it would have to have a lot of power. And this power can not only be brutal power, it has to be smart power.