Saturday, 5 January 2013

Israel lobby should not have veto over US president's cabinet

Hagel's presence in the Obama cabinet could easily, in some circumstances, make the difference between war and peace.

If you care about the direction of this country but think you don't have time to pay attention to what the Israel lobby is doing, you may want to think again. This is no conspiracy theory - it is all in broad daylight and the stakes are big, in fact they are matters of life and death right now. As we communicate, the Israel lobby is teaming up with the neocon right to prevent President Obama from choosing his Secretary of Defence.

Now you may think, well the right just prevented him from choosing Susan Rice for Secretary of State, so what's new and different here? The difference is that the fight over Susan Rice was just another stupid partisan fight over nothing, and the Republicans won because they had the power to block her nomination in the Senate. This was just a defeated party scoring points against their enemy, a Democratic president, and they gained absolute nothing as far as US foreign policy is concerned.

In fact they lost - for a handful of photo-ops and smears on the Sunday talk shows, and making their enemy look weak, they actually got a Secretary of State who is more likely to support what they don't want. For example, John Kerry is in favour of getting rid of the antiquated and failed embargo on Cuba. And of course, the right could defeat Susan Rice; whereas they can't defeat Kerry, because he is a long-time senator; and the Senate is an "old boys' club" where someone like Kerry will sail through regardless of his politics.

Loyal to a foreign government?

Now comes Chuck Hagel, a Republican Senator who would normally also be easy to confirm in the Senate, as Obama's choice for Secretary of Defence. But unlike in the case of Susan Rice, there are real, substantive objections to real substantive positions he has held: he was an early critic of the Iraq war; he wants to get out of Afghanistan, soon; he does not want a war with Iran; and he has supported cuts in military spending. This makes him neocon enemy number one, someone who must be crushed.

Of course, the neocons have their voices like the Weekly Standard and the Washington Post editorial board, but for those who may have noticed they have lost a lot of influence since they led us into that ugly war that nobody wants to remember in a place called Iraq.  In fact, even George W Bush had to be careful about listening to them during his second term. So on their own, the neocons couldn't really get in the way of a nomination like this one, a decorated Vietnam veteran, and a Republican no less.

But the neocons joined up with a powerful ally - the most powerful lobby in the country, the Israel lobby. And that is no exaggeration: the Washington Post reported a few years ago that the annual AIPAC dinner in Washington, DC, was attended by the majority of the Senate and a big chunk of the US House. The pharmaceutical and insurance industries have some pretty formidable lobbies and they may be able to set the boundaries for healthcare reform, but they are not going to get 51 senators to show up at an annual dinner, no matter how fine the cuisine. More

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