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Powell emails expose depth of media self-censorship re Israeli nukes

on 14 Comments

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.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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14 Responses

  1. Boomer on September 20, 2016, 1:00 pm

    The censorship is as pervasive, if not more, in the political class as in the major media. President Obama just addressed the UN. He talked about refugees extensively, but didn’t use the words “Palestine” or “Palestinians,” at least not according to the transcript provided by Politico. I didn’t listen, so I don’t know if he departed from his text. Somehow I doubt it.

    • Boomer on September 21, 2016, 7:06 am

      PS: correction to my statement that Obama didn’t refer to Palestinians. After being corrected on another thread, I checked the transcript at another site (Time) and found this:

      “And surely, Israelis and Palestinians will be better off if Palestinians reject incitement and recognize the legitimacy of Israel, but Israel recognizes that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land.”

      I’m not sure this statement is better than silence. Obama seems to blame the Palestinians, while offering nothing more than a statement that is false on its face regarding Israel. Israel has been occupying and settling Palestinian land for longer than most of people have been alive. It continues to do so with impunity, and is able to do so because of vast amounts of help from the U.S. We provide the weapons and diplomatic cover Israel needs. Obama himself has vetoed potentially constructive UNC efforts, while sending Israel more money and weapons. To me, Obama mainly is trying to cover his ass for history. Moralizing while perpetrating.

      • Kay24 on September 21, 2016, 8:55 am

        Yes, he could have also followed that up by stating that he understands the Palestinians have reasons to protest. It seems the US and Israel are incapable of facing the consequences of their violence (in this case occupation and land grabs). Here in the US, no one ever questions why we keep being the target of terrorist attacks, and perhaps we should look at other nations that never attack Muslim nations, and free from such attacks. Obama could have elaborated and connected the violence as the result of decades long occupation, but of course he did not.

      • lysias on September 21, 2016, 10:50 am

        Obama protecting his right to get big fees for giving speeches and serving on corporate boards after he leaves office?

      • Dmesh on September 21, 2016, 11:59 am

        Fbi says that about 50% of terror attacks in usa were by hispanics. Once we stopped the cold war proxy battles, coups, and death squads in latin america…we stopped seeing hispanic terror. Then we went to war in the middle east, backed coups, and armed death squads…what did we think would happen? BLOWBACK! Its the same we do when we get attacked, we seek revenge, rightly or wrongly.

      • Boomer on September 21, 2016, 6:49 pm

        @ lysias “Obama protecting his right to get big fees for giving speeches and serving on corporate boards after he leaves office?”

        A plausible hypothesis. In the realpolitik of DC, what’s the percentage in committing seppuku for a lost cause? He may like the idea of burnishing his legacy, if he can do so without depleting his bank account. So some words about settlements and 2SS are okay, as long as they don’t threaten real change.

      • Boomer on September 21, 2016, 6:53 pm

        @ Dmesh “what did we think would happen? BLOWBACK!”

        Sure, but we must not think about that, much less mention it, if it is for Israel. That would be anti-Semitic.

  2. pabelmont on September 20, 2016, 2:26 pm

    Americans having a false conversation about Iran’s (and Israel’s) nukes? Perish the perish! And after so very many years having non-false conversations about Israel & Palestine, hunh?

    “Hunh?” indeed. Why be surprised?

    As to “Not even the old Mutual Assured Destruction doctrine that preserved peace between the U.S. and the [USSR].” See my essay on quite a different topic: the-new-mutually-assured-destruction

  3. WH on September 20, 2016, 6:30 pm

    Powell is hardly famed for speaking the truth in public…

  4. David Nelson on September 21, 2016, 12:02 am

    I guess it is news when former officials say this stuff about what is common knowledge regarding Israel’s nukes, but when Powell says about Iran “We’ll blow up the only thing they care about—regime survival,” not only does he demonstrate American hideousness, he also demonstrates a severe misreading of Islam. When Saddam’s Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran, the IRI did not respond in kind even though they could have. Islam is the reason. This cynical reading of the government in Iran is false and perpetuates this animosity against them that is most deserving against us (America). The naivete regarding the Islamic Republic is on American officials and anyone siding with their cynical worldview.

  5. Marnie on September 21, 2016, 2:03 am

    From President Obama’s UN speech:

    “A nation ringed by walls would only imprison itself,” Obama declared to the assembled representatives of the UN’s member states.

    Gone were Obama’s idealistic appeals to bring about a world free of nuclear weapons and an agenda focused on peace, as were his previous UN addresses. The “hope and change” of his argument as a presidential candidate himself was also replaced by exhortations against a future filled with chaos.

    “Time and again human beings have believed they finally arrived at a period of enlightenment, only to repeat cycles of conflict and suffering. Perhaps that’s our fate,” Obama suggested.

    “We have to remember the choices of individual human beings led to repeated world war,” Obama said. “Each of us as leaders, each nation can choose to reject those who appeal to our worst impulses and embrace those who appeal to our best. For we have shown that we can choose a better history.” IMHO, that remains to be seen Mr. President. Sounds like you’re saying fighting proxy wars isn’t such a good thing. Did you tell the blue-haired booby in private or are you hoping he will see himself in your statement?

  6. Dmesh on September 21, 2016, 12:04 pm

    Aid to israel is actually illegal because of their undeclared nuke program. Every president that has approved aid has broken american law. This really proves that to america, laws are for poor people and russian/chinese allies to follow, because the US government definitely wont!

    • Boomer on September 21, 2016, 6:43 pm

      Like paying taxes, observing the law is “for the little people.”

  7. Ossinev on September 21, 2016, 12:24 pm

    Hey all you Europeans out there especially all you younger Europeans who had SFA to do with WW2 don`t forget that a lot of these JSILi nuclear armed missiles are also targeted at major European cities by way of potential revenge on your parents and grandparents and great – grandparents for the Holocaust.

    Heck they may even have a few targetted on NY and Washington DC if the loony freaks who are running the Zionist show decide that those ungrateful Yanks have thrown poor old long suffering eternally victimised JSIL under too many buses.

    I don`t think the Yahoo and Co have too much interest in targeting North Korea. They have too much in common with Kim Jong – Un and his eternally victimised North Korea.

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