Democracy, Presidential Election and the Lobby
By Habib Siddiqui
Part 1: Is Democracy Becoming a Joke?
Democracy is becoming a joke these days. This assertion is not true just for failed and illiberal democracies like Zimbabwe and Palestine but also for matured and yet imperfect, liberal democracies like France, the UK and the USA.
Democracy, which became synonymous with election when Arafat was alive, was pushed from outside by the USA and its allies on the people of Palestine. Interestingly, Palestine is not even a de jure state! Its people have endured an occupation that can only be described as brutal, murderous, psychotic and sadistic, thanks to Israel - the “only democracy” in the Middle East – and her western backers. Bush Administration didn’t talk to Arafat who was declared ‘not a partner’ for peace. Abbas, instead, was deemed a ‘partner’ and became President with western blessing soon after Arafat’s mysterious death (in Nov. 11, 2004), which possibly was caused by the Israeli government. Tired of corruption and gangsterism of the PLO, and a ‘peace’ process that was anything but peaceful and a Bush-scripted ‘roadmap’ that was only meant for legalizing more illegal settlement, humiliation and subjugation, and a total surrender to the Zionist regime, the people voted the Hamas in the Parliamentary election of 2006. For the last two years, they are told they have made a fatal mistake in electing a ‘terrorist’ party and are thus mercilessly punished by Israel, the USA, the UK and several western states for exercising their democratic rights. Through their divisive policy and inhuman economic embargo, these democratic countries have triggered in a civil war in which Palestinians are killing each other, something that Israel had always longed for but could not really finish the job. It may not be an overstatement if I were to say that democracy, since signing of the Oslo Accord, has brought nothing but misery to the Palestinian people.
France had its presidential election last year in which Nicolas Sarkozy, son of immigrant parents of mixed Jewish-Christian faith, was elected with brilliant media support. He represented a center-right party (UMP), which was formed by financiers to “break the mould of adversary party politics.” As Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi has observed, to win the election, Sarkozy had to “steal the doctrines of the extreme-right nationalist Le Pen.” Not to be forgotten in this context also, as the Minister of the Interior in Dominique de Villepin’s government (2005-2007), Sarkozy provoked the 2005 autumn civil unrest in France by calling young delinquents from housing projects “rabble” and hoodlums. His racist and tough attitude against the mostly immigrant community from North Africa rallied the ‘liberal’ French people to choose him as the symbol of national pride and unity. Emerging in the Gaullist cloak of unifying the nation, Sarkozy, a playboy all his life, was photographed before an enormous stone cross at the grave of De Gaulle. To perfect his credentials he publicly declared that his favorite modern classic was Celine, who while a master of the French language was also a rabid anti-Semite.
The British Parliament, which had bragged for decades of the rule of Habeas Corpus, the right to trial, and the protection from arrest without trial (of which we are genuinely pleased) - have rescinded all those human rights in the aftermath of 9/11. And yet Cherie Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was unashamed about reminding Bangladesh on honoring such civic rights that her own husband had denied to tens of Muslim youths entrapped behind the bar. The only difference between the so-called anti-terrorist activities of the British government and those of the Tsarist State is that the Imperial Russia hid the presence of the agent provocateur, while the corrupt British democracy actually brags of the success of its ‘entrapment’ operations. As has duly been noted by Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi, there cannot be justice for the accused. The security policies of the British democratic state are barbarous and shameful. While millions of pounds are spent on entrapment of would-be terrorists, streets of major cities of Britain are witnessing bloody massacres. Soon the murder rate by the Christian street terrorists will outnumber the victims of London Underground bombing.
How about America that has been transformed (and if I may add: not so quietly, sometimes with approval of the elected representatives) in post-9/11 era into what may only be called a Bush-country (surely this is not the USA envisioned by the founding fathers) with criminal government practices that are sure recipes for enigma and embarrassment to its best supporters? What law has not the current Administration flouted, ridiculing decades-long achievements, in matters of human rights – foreign and domestic? This Republican Administration is guilty of spying, wire-tapping, electronic-monitoring and surveillance, indefinite imprisonment without any charges of its own citizens under the pretext of preventing home-grown terrorism. Entrapment is widely used to arrest delinquents, morons and social misfits. Its Guantanamo Bay detention center has appositely been branded “the gulag of our times” by the Amnesty International. There have been allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls for its closure. The inhuman solitary confinement cells there have already resulted in the suicidal deaths of some detainees; at least ten percent of the detainees are now believed to have lost mental balance and become crazy because of appalling, torturous condition they have been subjected to. The Bush Administration is making a mockery of fair trial process of these detainees. We would probably never know if they truly deserved such inhuman treatment for which they were detained there.
Until very recently, we were told that the top officials in the Bush Administration did not authorize torture, e.g., like water-boarding, of foreign detainees. However, an ABC News report of April 9, 2008 showed just the opposite: our government has lied to us. In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Ashcroft, Rice and Tenet discussed and approved torture and other abuses against high-value al-Qaeda suspects by the CIA. The high-level discussions about these “enhanced interrogation techniques” were so detailed that some of interrogation sessions were almost choreographed down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic. What is happening with this country? We have some of the worst war criminals running the country that is soiling the image of America - home and abroad. As Republican John McCain would tell you if Abe Lincoln were alive he won’t recognize today’s Republican Party that he had founded.
It was only 18 months ago that the American electorate, faced with military catastrophe, changed the composition in the Capitol Hill by voting in the Democratic Party, opposed to the war, in order to end it. The result was that the American Senate ordered an end to the War on behalf of the electorate, only to be told that the War would continue. Not only that, as if Iraq was not sufficient enough, we are told that Bush Administration is preparing for another war in Iran. With President’s approval rating at 27 percent (per Zogby International - the most reliable poll conducting group) , Bush probably dreams of leaving the office with a winning score rather than as a sore loser.
America is now holding its primary elections. With Senator Hillary Clinton’s predictable victory in the Pennsylvania primary election, the super delegates may eventually decide who ultimately gets the ticket for the Democratic Party. The election is also bringing to the fore the ugly side of racism that has always been dormant within the society.
The three most important issues in the minds of most voters are economy, war and healthcare (in that order). Everyone is feeling the pinch of soaring prices on almost everything from gasoline to milk to meat to bread and rice. The American economy seems to be in recession. Consumer confidence has hit 26-year low. Many voters have lost their homes to foreclosures, many parents are struggling to pay for soaring tuition costs of their college-going children, many elderly citizens are hard pressed with rising healthcare cost and many workers will lose jobs. Experts tell us that the days of cheap gasoline at pump stations are over and difficult days are ahead. Beside such economic worries most voters are concerned about American foreign policy. (The American foreign policy is entwined with economics. Oil was a factor for invasion of Iraq. Now that has backfired. Instead of cheaper oil Americans are paying more at the gas pumps.) Tired of the war and its effect on economy, they crave for a shift away from Washington’s unwavering support of an Israel-centric Middle East. They don’t want to fight another proxy war for Israel against Iran and Syria.
Unfortunately, such voter concerns on the future of American foreign policy are routinely eclipsed by the corporate media, which parrot what the “Israel Lobby” desires; after all, many media pundits, owners and sponsors either belong directly to or are affiliated with the Lobby. The Lobby is tied up intimately with the defense industry – “military industrial complex” – that prefers war over peace, especially when it comes to Iran, which is considered a threat to the ‘existence’ of the Zionist state.
The matter of who goes to the White House is very important to the Lobby and its circle of influence. Thus, it is not difficult to understand why a Presidential candidate gets better exposure in the American media and favorable treatment from interviewers and moderators in the debates when he/she sounds more hawkish, i.e., pro-war and pro-Israel. We got a good demonstration of this from the favorable treatment of Sen. Clinton in the April 16 face-off between the two Democratic candidates on the ABC TV. In the first 40 minutes of the two-hour Democratic debate, the moderators appeared unmistakably hostile towards Senator Barack Obama by asking him about his remarks that small-town residents bitterly cling to guns and religion; the inflammatory sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright (with follow-up questions like: “Do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?”); about Obama’s patriotism why he doesn’t wear an American flag pin; and his relationship with William Ayers, a former Weather Underground radical who has acknowledged involvement in several bombings in the 1970s. One wonders if such TV gangsterism had swayed many neutral Whites, Catholics and blue collar democrats to voting for Senator Clinton in the critical Pennsylvania primary held Tuesday, April 22, 2008! This win has given a gasp of life to Mrs. Clinton’s race for the White House; within a day of the win she was able to raise ten million dollars towards her presidential campaign.
The U.S. election has been very important to the Zionist state since its birth six decades ago. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), originally named American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs (affiliated with the American Zionist Council), was formed in 1953 to secure American aid and support to Israel. The advocacy group has now more than 100,000 members and, by any measure, is the most powerful political lobby in the USA. Its grip in the Capitol Hill is almost complete, notwithstanding repeated cases of spying activities against the USA. This is further testified by the fact that on April 22 and 23, in a landmark display of U.S. friendship to Israel, the House and Senate unanimously passed resolutions (H. Con. Res. 322 and S. Res. 522) recognizing the 60th anniversary of Israel’s birth and reaffirming the close ties between the United States and Israel. The Speaker of the House, who traditionally does not cosponsor legislation, joined Democratic and Republican House leaders as a lead sponsor of the bill. Crimes of the rogue Zionist state are not only forgotten and forgiven she is sometimes rewarded by a subservient Capitol Hill. That is the reality of American democracy today.
Part 2: Can the Influence of the Lobby be curbed?
On January 17, 2008 Haaretz, a liberal Israeli English language newspaper, assessed the American presidential candidates in a monthly feature called “The Israel Factor: Ranking the Presidential Candidates,” which rated the candidates from 1 to 10, with 10 being “best for Israel” and 1 being worst. It is not difficult to guess who came worst amongst active candidates. Yes, it’s Obama with a score of 5. John McCain, the Republican candidate, got a rating of 7.12. Hillary Clinton scored 7.62 (just behind Giuliani who scored 8.37 – now out of the presidential race ). With three main contenders left now, the latest poll numbers are: 7.75 for McCain, 7.5 for Clinton and 5.12 for Obama.
Senator Clinton is very popular with the Lobby since her days as the First Lady. It prefers her over any Democratic contender for the White House. Her husband had pardoned Marc Rich, a fugitive, of tax evasion, after clemency pleas from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. It is worth noting that Denise Rich, Marc’s former wife, had made substantial donations to the Clinton library and to Mrs. Clinton’s senate campaign, and that Marc Rich was a middleman for several suspect Iraqi oil deals involving over 4 million barrels of oil. Since becoming a senator in New York, Mrs. Clinton has solidified her position with the Lobby by joining the ‘Amen Corner’ inside the Capitol Hill which is a cabal for “Israel-firsters”, i.e., Israel comes first, even ahead of American interest. She had demanded that the U.S. embassy be shifted from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. She had described Israel as the “beacon” of what democracy can and should mean. She is an unapologetic supporter of the inhuman and utterly criminal Israeli Wall that cuts off tens of thousands of Palestinians from their livelihood, land and family members. She has also said that the “security and freedom” of Israel must remain at the “core of any American approach to the Middle East.” In 2005, addressing the AIPAC, she said, “A nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable, but it is not just unacceptable to Israel and the United States. It must be unacceptable to the entire world, starting with the European governments and people.” Trailing behind Obama these days, her rhetoric against Iran has only grown louder. In an interview on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” she confirmed Monday (April 21) that as president she would be willing to use nuclear weapons against Iran if it were to launch a nuclear attack on Israel.
Senator McCain edges Sen. Clinton as a favorite choice with the military-industrial-complex and amongst the Israel-lovers. He is touted by the American corporate media as an expert on foreign policy, in spite of his highly flawed understanding of the Middle East. On March 17, McCain appeared on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show and said, “There are al Qaeda operatives that are taken back into Iran and given training as leaders and they’re moving back into Iraq.” He repeated the same false claim twice in a press conference in Amman the next day before he was corrected by Sen. Liebermann who had accompanied him there. He is the most hawkish amongst the three serious candidates now running for the presidential post. To solidify his standing amongst the Lobby he has said, “There can be no comprehensive peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians until the Palestinians recognize Israel, forswear forever the use of violence, recognize their previous agreements, and reform their internal institutions.” He also said, “America must provide Israel with whatever military equipment and technology she requires to defend herself, above and beyond what we supply today if necessary.” In recent months, to the utter euphoria of neocons he has found a defining signature statement: “the transcendent challenge of the 21st century is radical Islamic extremists.” He is Lobby’s favorite choice to carry on the unfinished mission in the Middle East. Naturally, his serious errors with facts and memory lapses are excused by the corporate media. It’s not surprising to explain the results of the April 16 Reuters/Zogby poll report, which found McCain to be tied with Democrat Obama in the head-to-head prospective general election match-up with 45% support; and McCain maintaining a 46% to 41% lead over Democrat Clinton.
Poor Senator Obama! He may identify himself as a friend of Israel, but fact remains that the Lobby does not trust him as one of their own and is doing everything possible to deny him the Democratic ticket. Perception is reality in politics. Obama is fully aware of the power of the Lobby. With a middle name Hussein and being grandson of Kenyan Muslims, Obama is asked to run the extra mile to swear his fealty to the Zionist state. He demonstrated his support for the rogue state during last year’s criminal invasion of Lebanon, which killed more than 1,000 Lebanese civilians: “I don’t think there is any nation that would not have reacted the way Israel did after two soldiers had been snatched. I support Israel’s response to take some action in protecting themselves.” [What a pathetic demonstration of servitude at the altar of the Lobby! And yet no yarmulke!] Even Obama’s Christian faith (he was baptized in 1988 by Rev. Wright) is looked upon as a fake one. One in ten Americans falsely perceive him as a Muslim.
In January, Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League (another powerful Jewish lobby), demanded that Obama condemn Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, as an anti-Semite to which Obama promptly relented. Then pressure mounted to denounce his own pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who was described as having “very strong anti-Israel views.” Again, Obama, as a politician, caved in to the pressure from the pro-Israel lobby. It is worth mentioning that Dr. Wright did not say anything new that we had not known about Israel’s support of apartheid South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s, which included providing technical assistance in the development of a South African nuclear weapon and supplying Israeli-made weapons, flouting a UNO-imposed embargo. As Philip Giraldi, an ex-CIA officer, has recently observed, even the water cannons used to attack black demonstrators were manufactured in the Israeli kibbutz Beit Alfa. In the UN, Israel opposed an end to racism. When speaking about the root cause of 9/11, Dr. Wright did not say anything new that we had not heard before from (late) Malcolm X who had said: the chickens have come back to roost - referring to the assassination of President Kennedy. As a pastor who is mindful of his accountability before God, Dr. Wright did not shy away from his moral duty to condemning America for her monumental crime against the Native American people or the Black Africans who were brought to this country as slaves, or government’s crime for internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, or for dropping bombs in Japan, Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan that had killed so many civilians. Some video clips from his sermons are now selectively used by racist and bigots at the service of the Lobby to defeat Obama. He is depicted in TV ads as an extremist. He is censured for not only acquaintance he may have had but also for being praised or liked by those who are identified by the Lobby as hostile or not subservient to the Zionist state. That is the Lobby’s rule!
Senator Obama’s military adviser included retired Air Force General Merrill McPeak who in a 2003 interview correctly pointed out that the American politicians were afraid of Jewish voters who “vote … in favor of Israel and no politician wants to run against it” and that Israelis must “stop settling the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” Another adviser - Samantha Power - who politically ‘incorrectly’ suggested that the billions of dollars “servicing Israel’s military” should actually be invested “in the state of Palestine” if one truly wanted to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East. Another adviser Robert Malley advocated negotiations with the Hamas. The Lobby is also alarmed about Dr. Zbignew Brzezinski’s potential influence in modifying foreign policy should Obama become the president. Dr. Brzezinski is probably the most brilliant American strategist alive when it comes to international affairs, who in his must-read book – The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership – has made a compelling case for American leadership in the globe through partnership and not unilateralism. But such candid opinions from American-centric advisers are unwelcome in the USA today where the Lobby has managed to thrust their Israel-centric agenda. Obama is accused of having a “Jewish problem.” Afraid of further antagonizing the powerful Lobby, he has disowned many such well-meaning advisers and well-wishers.
So, when it comes to the Middle East, it seems American policy as usual. That is the pervasive message people are hearing loud and clear from all the three major contenders – McCain, Obama and Clinton. As a matter of fact none of them could have reached the stage they are in today without passing the litmus test of the Lobby that proved that they are “Israel-firsters.” However, as we have noticed not all are perceived evenly.
The Lobby has several affiliated think tanks dealing with the Middle East. Many of these are run by neoconservatives. None of these are neutral and/or American-centric. As a matter of fact, unlike university research centers, these are Israel-centric advocacy groups with tremendous influence on American foreign policy. William Kristol’s Project for the New American Century was an advocate of war against Iraq. The American Enterprise Institute included such individuals as Richard Perle and David Wurmser who were instrumental in influencing policy towards Iraq in the early days of Bush Administration. It also includes ‘experts’ like Michael Ledeen and Michael Rubin. The Middle East Media Research Institute (Memri), which specializes in translating and distributing articles that show Arabs in a bad light, is run by David Wurmser’s wife, Meyrav, along with Colonel Yigal Carmon, formerly of Israeli military intelligence. Meyrav also runs the Middle East section at another think tank - the Hudson Institute, where Perle joined the board of trustees. In addition, Meyrav belongs to the Middle East Forum, which is run by Robert Satloff, Patrick Clawson, Michael Rubin, William Kristol and Daniel Pipes. The Council on Foreign Relations claims to be a non-partisan think tank. It is run by Richard Haass whose view on the Middle East is very pro-Israel.
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) was founded in 1985 by Martin Indyk when he was the director of research for AIPAC. It is considered the most influential of the Middle East think tanks, and the one that the U.S. State Department takes most seriously. Its current executive director is Robert Satloff. Patrick Clawson is Deputy Director for Research, who is also affiliated with the Middle East Forum. Its Board members include among others: Samuel Lewis, Martin Peretz (editor of New Republic), Richard Perle, and James Woolsey. Its counselor is the former US diplomat, Dennis Ross. His bias for Israel is well known. WINEP includes Jewish academics like Martin Kramer, who also belongs to the Middle East Forum and is a former director of the Moshe Dayan Centre at Tel Aviv University, and Matthew Levitt of the Johns Hopkins University. Every four years, WINEP convenes a “bipartisan blue-ribbon commission” known as the Presidential study group, which presents a blueprint for Middle East policy to the newly-elected president.
The Saban Center for Middle East, formed in 2002, is part of the Brookings Institution. Far from being an objective observer of the Middle East, the Center is funded by Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban, who in a 2004 interview said, “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.” The Center is headed by Martin Indyk, born in England, who has been a strong advocate for Israel, first as research director of AIPAC and then as the founder and first executive director of WINEP. He was naturalized by Congress in 1995 so that Bill Clinton could name him U.S. ambassador to Israel. His true loyalty is to Israel.
Haim Saban is extremely close to the Clintons and is also reported to be the largest contributor to the Democratic National Committee. When Bill Clinton was president, Saban and his wife slept in the Lincoln bedroom on a number of occasions. Like its founder, the Saban Center is Israel-centric in its policy analysis, sponsoring bilateral meetings in Jerusalem to discuss issues of common concern.
All these think tanks are well funded by their ‘anonymous’ (actually Lobby) benefactors and are well organized. Ideas sown by one element are watered and nurtured by the others. As can also be seen many of the experts do belong to multiple think tanks.
In today’s political culture in America, the Lobby’s mission has become an embedded value and is therefore rarely scrutinized. But as has been argued by thirty authors in a recently published book - Persecution, Privilege & Power, ed. Mark Green, BookSurge Publishing (2008) - it is high time for a serious transparent investigation of America’s special relationship with the Zionist enterprise, esp. when the wars in Iraq and Palestine drag on. The sooner the better, otherwise, America will continue to drag its own grave much like other former great powers of our planet. Will the next president have the courage to deal with this most important challenge to America’s future?
[Dr. Siddiqui lives in Pennsylvania. His book – Wisdom of Mankind – is now available in Bangladesh.]