Mondoweiss: What did AIPAC do and when did it do it? (Iraq)

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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.

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