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A Rose By Another Other Name
The Bush Administration's Dual Loyalties

By KATHLEEN and BILL CHRISTISON
former CIA political analysts

CounterPunch, December 13, 2002 

 

Since the long-forgotten days when the State Department's Middle East
policy was run by a group of so-called Arabists, U.S. policy on Israel and
the Arab world has increasingly become the purview of officials well known
for tilting toward Israel. From the 1920s roughly to 1990, Arabists, who
had a personal history and an educational background in the Arab world and
were accused by supporters of Israel of being totally biased toward Arab
interests, held sway at the State Department and, despite having limited
power in the policymaking circles of any administration, helped maintain
some semblance of U.S. balance by keeping policy from tipping over totally
toward Israel. But Arabists have been steadily replaced by their exact
opposites, what some observers are calling Israelists, and policymaking
circles throughout government now no longer even make a pretense of
exhibiting balance between Israeli and Arab, particularly Palestinian,
interests.

In the Clinton administration, the three most senior State Department
officials dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli peace process were all
partisans of Israel to one degree or another. All had lived at least for
brief periods in Israel and maintained ties with Israel while in office,
occasionally vacationing there. One of these officials had worked both as a
pro-Israel lobbyist and as director of a pro-Israel think tank in
Washington before taking a position in the Clinton administration from
which he helped make policy on Palestinian-Israeli issues. Another has
headed the pro-Israel think tank since leaving government.

The link between active promoters of Israeli interests and policymaking
circles is stronger by several orders of magnitude in the Bush
administration, which is peppered with people who have long records of
activism on behalf of Israel in the United States, of policy advocacy in
Israel, and of promoting an agenda for Israel often at odds with existing
U.S. policy. These people, who can fairly be called Israeli loyalists, are
now at all levels of government, from desk officers at the Defense
Department to the deputy secretary level at both State and Defense, as well
as on the National Security Council staff and in the vice president's office.

We still tiptoe around putting a name to this phenomenon. We write articles
about the neo-conservatives' agenda on U.S.-Israeli relations and imply
that in the neo-con universe there is little light between the two
countries. We talk openly about the Israeli bias in the U.S. media. We make
wry jokes about Congress being "Israeli-occupied territory." Jason Vest in
The Nation magazine reported forthrightly that some of the think tanks that
hold sway over Bush administration thinking see no difference between U.S.
and Israeli national security interests. But we never pronounce the
particular words that best describe the real meaning of those observations
and wry remarks. It's time, however, that we say the words out loud and
deal with what they really signify.

Dual loyalties. The issue we are dealing with in the Bush administration is
dual loyalties-the double allegiance of those myriad officials at high and
middle levels who cannot distinguish U.S. interests from Israeli interests,
who baldly promote the supposed identity of interests between the United
States and Israel, who spent their early careers giving policy advice to
right-wing Israeli governments and now give the identical advice to a
right-wing U.S. government, and who, one suspects, are so wrapped up in
their concern for the fate of Israel that they honestly do not know whether
their own passion about advancing the U.S. imperium is motivated primarily
by America-first patriotism or is governed first and foremost by a desire
to secure Israel's safety and predominance in the Middle East through the
advancement of the U.S. imperium.

"Dual loyalties" has always been one of those red flags posted around the
subject of Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict, something that induces
horrified gasps and rapid heartbeats because of its implication of Jewish
disloyalty to the United States and the common assumption that anyone who
would speak such a canard is ipso facto an anti-Semite. (We have a Jewish
friend who is not bothered by the term in the least, who believes that U.S.
and Israeli interests should be identical and sees it as perfectly natural
for American Jews to feel as much loyalty to Israel as they do to the
United States. But this is clearly not the usual reaction when the subject
of dual loyalties arises.)

Although much has been written about the neo-cons who dot the Bush
administration, the treatment of the their ties to Israel has generally
been very gingerly. Although much has come to light recently about the fact
that ridding Iraq both of its leader and of its weapons inventory has been
on the neo-con agenda since long before there was a Bush administration,
little has been said about the link between this goal and the neo-cons'
overriding desire to provide greater security for Israel. But an
examination of the cast of characters in Bush administration policymaking
circles reveals a startlingly pervasive network of pro-Israel activists,
and an examination of the neo-cons' voluminous written record shows that
Israel comes up constantly as a neo-con reference point, always mentioned
with the United States as the beneficiary of a recommended policy, always
linked with the United States when national interests are at issue.

The Begats

First to the cast of characters. Beneath cabinet level, the list of
pro-Israel neo-cons who are either policy functionaries themselves or
advise policymakers from perches just on the edges of government reads like
the old biblical "begats." Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz leads
the pack. He was a protégé of Richard Perle, who heads the prominent
Pentagon advisory body, the Defense Policy Board. Many of today's neo-cons,
including Perle, are the intellectual progeny of the late Senator Henry
"Scoop" Jackson, a strong defense hawk and one of Israel's most strident
congressional supporters in the 1970s.

Wolfowitz in turn is the mentor of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, now Vice
President Cheney's chief of staff who was first a student of Wolfowitz and
later a subordinate during the 1980s in both the State and the Defense
Departments. Another Perle protégé is Douglas Feith, who is currently
undersecretary of defense for policy, the department's number-three man,
and has worked closely with Perle both as a lobbyist for Turkey and in
co-authoring strategy papers for right-wing Israeli governments. Assistant
Secretaries Peter Rodman and Dov Zachkeim, old hands from the Reagan
administration when the neo-cons first flourished, fill out the subcabinet
ranks at Defense. At lower levels, the Israel and the Syria/Lebanon desk
officers at Defense are imports from the Washington Institute for Near East
Policy, a think tank spun off from the pro-Israel lobby organization, AIPAC.

Neo-cons have not made many inroads at the State Department, except for
John Bolton, an American Enterprise Institute hawk and Israeli proponent
who is said to have been forced on a reluctant Colin Powell as
undersecretary for arms control. Bolton's special assistant is David
Wurmser, who wrote and/or co-authored with Perle and Feith at least two
strategy papers for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in 1996. Wurmser's
wife, Meyrav Wurmser, is a co-founder of the media-watch website MEMRI
(Middle East Media Research Institute), which is run by retired Israeli
military and intelligence officers and specializes in translating and
widely circulating Arab media and statements by Arab leaders. A recent
investigation by the Guardian of London found that MEMRI's translations are
skewed by being highly selective. Although it inevitably translates and
circulates the most extreme of Arab statements, it ignores moderate Arab
commentary and extremist Hebrew statements.

In the vice president's office, Cheney has established his own personal
national security staff, run by aides known to be very pro-Israel. The
deputy director of the staff, John Hannah, is a former fellow of the
Israeli-oriented Washington Institute. On the National Security Council
staff, the newly appointed director of Middle East affairs is Elliott
Abrams, who came to prominence after pleading guilty to withholding
information from Congress during the Iran-contra scandal (and was pardoned
by President Bush the elder) and who has long been a vocal proponent of
right-wing Israeli positions. Putting him in a key policymaking position on
the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is like entrusting the henhouse to a fox.

Pro-Israel activists with close links to the administration are also busy
in the information arena inside and outside government. The head of Radio
Liberty, a Cold War propaganda holdover now converted to service in the
"war on terror," is Thomas Dine, who was the very active head of AIPAC
throughout most of the Reagan and the Bush-41 administrations. Elsewhere on
the periphery, William Kristol, son of neo-con originals Irving Kristol and
Gertrude Himmelfarb, is closely linked to the administration's pro-Israel
coterie and serves as its cheerleader through the Rupert Murdoch-owned
magazine that he edits, The Weekly Standard. Some of Bush's speechwriters -
including David Frum, who coined the term "axis of evil" for Bush's
state-of-the-union address but was forced to resign when his wife publicly
bragged about his linguistic prowess - have come from The Weekly Standard.
Frank Gaffney, another Jackson and Perle protégé and Reagan administration
defense official, puts his pro-Israel oar in from his think tank, the
Center for Security Policy, and through frequent media appearances and
regular columns in the Washington Times.

The incestuous nature of the proliferating boards and think tanks, whose
membership lists are more or less identical and totally interchangeable, is
frighteningly insidious. Several scholars at the American Enterprise
Institute, including former Reagan UN ambassador and long-time supporter of
the Israeli right wing Jeane Kirkpatrick, make their pro-Israel views known
vocally from the sidelines and occupy positions on other boards. Probably
the most important organization, in terms of its influence on Bush
administration policy formulation, is the Jewish Institute for National
Security Affairs (JINSA). Formed after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war
specifically to bring Israel's security concerns to the attention of U.S.
policymakers and concentrating also on broad defense issues, the extremely
hawkish, right-wing JINSA has always had a high-powered board able to place
its members inside conservative U.S. administrations. Cheney, Bolton, and
Feith were members until they entered the Bush administration. Several
lower level JINSA functionaries are now working in the Defense Department.
Perle is still a member, as are Kirkpatrick, former CIA director and
leading Iraq-war hawk James Woolsey, and old-time rabid pro-Israel types
like Eugene Rostow and Michael Ledeen. Both JINSA and Gaffney's Center for
Security Policy are heavily underwritten by Irving Moskowitz, a right-wing
American Zionist, California business magnate (his money comes from bingo
parlors), and JINSA board member who has lavishly financed the
establishment of several religious settlements in Arab East Jerusalem.

By Their Own Testimony

Most of the neo-cons now in government have left a long paper trail giving
clear evidence of their fervently right-wing pro-Israel, and fervently
anti-Palestinian, sentiments. Whether being pro-Israel, even pro right-wing
Israel, constitutes having dual loyalties, - that is a desire to further
Israel's interests that equals or exceeds the desire to further U.S.
interests, -is obviously not easy to determine, but the record gives some
clues.

Wolfowitz himself has been circumspect in public, writing primarily about
broader strategic issues rather than about Israel specifically or even the
Middle East, but it is clear that at bottom Israel is a major interest and
may be the principal reason for his near obsession with the effort, of
which he is the primary spearhead, to dump Saddam Hussein, remake the Iraqi
government in an American image, and then further redraw the Middle East
map by accomplishing the same goals in Syria, Iran, and perhaps other
countries. Profiles of Wolfowitz paint him as having two distinct aspects:
one obessively bent on advancing U.S. dominance throughout the world,
ruthless and uncompromising, seriously prepared to "end states," as he once
put it, that support terrorism in any way, a velociraptor in the words of
one former colleague cited in the Economist; the other a softer aspect,
which shows him to be a soft-spoken political moralist, an ardent democrat,
even a bleeding heart on social issues, and desirous for purely moral and
humanitarian reasons of modernizing and democratizing the Islamic world.

But his interest in Israel always crops up. Even profiles that downplay his
attachment to Israel nonetheless always mention the influence the
Holocaust, in which several of his family perished, has had on his
thinking. One source inside the administration has described him frankly as
"over-the-top crazy when it comes to Israel." Although this probably
accurately describes most of the rest of the neo-con coterie, and Wolfowitz
is guilty at least by association, he is actually more complex and nuanced
than this. A recent New York Times Magazine profile by the Times' Bill
Keller cites critics who say that "Israel exercises a powerful
gravitational pull on the man" and notes that as a teenager Wolfowitz lived
in Israel during his mathematician father's sabbatical semester there. His
sister is married to an Israeli. Keller even somewhat reluctantly
acknowledges the accuracy of one characterization of Wolfowitz as
"Israel-centric." But Keller goes through considerable contortions to shun
what he calls "the offensive suggestion of dual loyalty" and in the process
makes one wonder if he is protesting too much. Keller concludes that
Wolfowitz is less animated by the security of Israel than by the promise of
a more moderate Islam. He cites as evidence Wolfowitz's admiration for
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat for making peace with Israel and also draws
on a former Wolfowitz subordinate who says that "as a moral man, he might
have found Israel the heart of the Middle East story. But as a policy
maker, Turkey and the gulf and Egypt didn't loom any less large for him."

These remarks are revealing. Anyone not so fearful of broaching the issue
of dual loyalties might at least have raised the suggestion that
Wolfowitz's real concern may indeed be to ensure Israel's security.
Otherwise, why do his overriding interests seem to be reinventing Anwar
Sadats throughout the Middle East by transforming the Arab and Muslim
worlds and thereby making life safer for Israel, and a passion for fighting
a pre-emptive war against Iraq - when there are critical areas totally
apart from the Middle East and myriad other broad strategic issues that any
deputy secretary of defense should be thinking about just as much? His
current interest in Turkey, which is shared by the other neo-cons, some of
whom have served as lobbyists for Turkey, seems also to be directed at
securing Israel's place in the region; there seems little reason for
particular interest in this moderate Islamic, non-Arab country, other than
that it is a moderate Islamic but non-Arab neighbor of Israel.

Furthermore, the notion suggested by the Wolfowitz subordinate that any
moral man would obviously look to Israel as the "heart of the Middle East
story" is itself an Israel-centered idea: the assumption that Israel is a
moral state, always pursuing moral policies, and that any moral person
would naturally attach himself to Israel automatically presumes that there
is an identity of interests between the United States and Israel; only
those who assume such a complete coincidence of interests accept the notion
that Israel is, across the board, a moral state.

Others among the neo-con policymakers have been more direct and open in
expressing their pro-Israel views. Douglas Feith has been the most prolific
of the group, with a two-decade-long record of policy papers, many
co-authored with Perle, propounding a strongly anti-Palestinian, pro-Likud
view. He views the Palestinians as not constituting a legitimate national
group, believes that the West Bank and Gaza belong to Israel by right, and
has long advocated that the U.S. abandon any mediating effort altogether
and particularly foreswear the land-for-peace formula.

In 1996, Feith, Perle, and both David and Meyrav Wurmser were among the
authors of a policy paper issued by an Israeli think tank and written for
newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that urged Israel to make a
"clean break" from pursuit of the peace process, particularly its
land-for-peace aspects, which the authors regarded as a prescription for
Israel's annihilation. Arabs must rather accept a "peace-for-peace" formula
through unconditional acceptance of Israel's rights, including its
territorial rights in the occupied territories. The paper advocated that
Israel "engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism" by disengaging
from economic and political dependence on the U.S. while maintaining a more
"mature," self-reliant partnership with the U.S. not focused "narrowly on
territorial disputes." Greater self-reliance would, these freelance
policymakers told Netanyahu, give Israel "greater freedom of action and
remove a significant lever of pressure [i.e., U.S. pressure] used against
it in the past."

The paper advocated, even as far back as 1996, containment of the threat
against Israel by working closely with -- guess who? - Turkey, as well as
with Jordan, apparently regarded as the only reliably moderate Arab regime.
Jordan had become attractive for these strategists because it was at the
time working with opposition elements in Iraq to reestablish a Hashemite
monarchy there that would have been allied by blood lines and political
leanings to the Hashemite throne in Jordan. The paper's authors saw the
principal threat to Israel coming, we should not be surprised to discover
now, from Iraq and Syria and advised that focusing on the removal of Saddam
Hussein would kill two birds with one stone by also thwarting Syria's
regional ambitions. In what amounts to a prelude to the neo-cons' principal
policy thrust in the Bush administration, the paper spoke frankly of
Israel's interest in overturning the Iraqi leadership and replacing it with
a malleable monarchy. Referring to Saddam Hussein's ouster as "an important
Israeli strategic objective," the paper observed that "Iraq's future could
affect the strategic balance in the Middle East profoundly" - meaning give
Israel unquestioned predominance in the region. The authors urged therefore
that Israel support the Hashemites in their "efforts to redefine Iraq."

In a much longer policy document written at about the same time for the
same Israeli think tank, David Wurmser repeatedly linked the U.S. and
Israel when talking about national interests in the Middle East. The
"battle to dominate and define Iraq," he wrote "is, by extension, the
battle to dominate the balance of power in the Levant over the long run,"
and "the United States and Israel" can fight this battle together. Repeated
references to U.S. and Israeli strategic policy, pitted against a
"Saudi-Iraqi-Syrian-Iranian-PLO axis," and to strategic moves that
establish a balance of power in which the United States and Israel are
ascendant, in alliance with Turkey and Jordan, betray a thought process
that cannot separate U.S. from Israeli interests.

Perle gave further impetus to this thrust when six years later, in
September 2002, he gave a briefing for Pentagon officials that included a
slide depicting a recommended strategic goal for the U.S. in the Middle
East: all of Palestine as Israel, Jordan as Palestine, and Iraq as the
Hashemite kingdom. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld seems to have taken this
aboard, since he spoke at about the same time of the West Bank and Gaza as
the "so-called occupied territories" - effectively turning all of Palestine
into Israel.

Elliott Abrams is another unabashed supporter of the Israeli right, now
bringing his links with Israel into the service of U.S. policymaking on
Palestinian-Israeli issues. The neo-con community is crowing about Abrams'
appointment as Middle East director on the NSC staff (where this
Iran-contra criminal has already been working since mid-2001, badly miscast
as the director for, of all things, democracy and human rights). The Weekly
Standard's Fred Barnes has hailed his appointment as a decisive move that
neatly cocks a snook at the pro-Palestinian wimps at the State Department.
Accurately characterizing Abrams as "more pro-Israel, less solicitous of
Palestinians" than the State Department and strongly opposed to the
Palestinian-Israeli peace process, Barnes gloats that the Abrams triumph
signals that the White House will not cede control of Middle East policy to
Colin Powell and the "foreign service bureaucrats." Abrams comes to the
post after a year in which it had effectively been left vacant. His
predecessor, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been serving concurrently as Bush's
personal representative to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban and
has devoted little time to the NSC job, but several attempts to appoint a
successor early this year were vetoed by neo-con hawks who felt the
appointees were not devoted enough to Israel.

Although Abrams has no particular Middle East expertise, he has managed to
insert himself in the Middle East debate repeatedly over the years. He has
a family interest in propounding a pro-Israel view; he is the son-in-law of
Norman Podhoretz, one of the original neo-cons and a long-time strident
supporter of right-wing Israeli causes as editor of Commentary magazine,
and Midge Decter, a frequent right-wing commentator. Abrams has written a
good deal on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, opposing U.S. mediation and
any effort to press for Israeli concessions. In an article published in
advance of the 2000 elections, he propounded a rationale for a U.S. missile
defense system, and a foreign policy agenda in general, geared almost
entirely toward ensuring Israel's security. "It is a simple fact," he
wrote, that the possession of missiles and weapons of mass destruction by
Iraq and Iran vastly increases Israel's vulnerability, and this threat
would be greatly diminished if the U.S. provided a missile shield and
brought about the demise of Saddam Hussein. He concluded with a
wholehearted assertion of the identity of U.S. and Israeli interests: "The
next decade will present enormous opportunities to advance American
interests in the Middle East [by] boldly asserting our support of our
friends" - that is, of course, Israel. Many of the fundamental negotiating
issues critical to Israel, he said, are also critical to U.S. policy in the
region and "require the United States to defend its interests and allies"
rather than giving in to Palestinian demands.

Neo-cons in the Henhouse

The neo-con strategy papers half a dozen years ago were dotted with
concepts like "redefining Iraq," "redrawing the map of the Middle East,"
"nurturing alternatives to Arafat," all of which have in recent months
become familiar parts of the Bush administration's diplomatic lingo.
Objectives laid out in these papers as important strategic goals for Israel
-- including the ouster of Saddam Hussein, the strategic transformation of
the entire Middle East, the death of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process,
regime change wherever the U.S. and Israel don't happen to like the
existing government, the abandonment of any effort to forge a comprehensive
Arab-Israeli peace or even a narrower Palestinian-Israeli peace -- have now
become, under the guidance of this group of pro-Israel neo-cons, important
strategic goals for the United States. The enthusiasm with which senior
administration officials like Bush himself, Cheney, and Rumsfeld have
adopted strategic themes - originally defined for Israel's guidance -and
did so in many cases well before September 11 and the so-called war on
terror -- testifies to the persuasiveness of a neo-con philosophy focused
narrowly on Israel and the pervasiveness of the network throughout
policymaking councils.

Does all this add up to dual loyalties to Israel and the United States?
Many would still contend indignantly that it does not, and that it is
anti-Semitic to suggest such a thing. In fact, zealous advocacy of Israel's
causes may be just that -- zealotry, an emotional connection to Israel that
still leaves room for primary loyalty to the United States -- and affection
for Israel is not in any case a sentiment limited to Jews. But passion and
emotion -- and, as George Washington wisely advised, a passionate
attachment to any country -- have no place in foreign policy formulation,
and it is mere hair-splitting to suggest that a passionate attachment to
another country is not loyalty to that country. Zealotry clouds judgment,
and emotion should never be the basis for policymaking.

Zealotry can lead to extreme actions to sustain policies, as is apparently
occurring in the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Feith Defense Department. People
knowledgeable of the intelligence community have said, according to a
recent article in The American Prospect, that the CIA is under tremendous
pressure to produce intelligence more supportive of war with Iraq -- as one
former CIA official put it, "to support policies that have already been
adopted." Key Defense Department officials, including Feith, are said to be
attempting to make the case for pre-emptive war by producing their own
unverified intelligence. Wolfowitz betrayed his lack of concern for real
evidence when, in answer to a recent question about where the evidence is
for Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, he replied, "It's
like the judge said about pornography. I can't define it, but I will know
it when I see it."

Zealotry can also lead to a myopic focus on the wrong issues in a conflict
or crisis, as is occurring among all Bush policymakers with regard to the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The administration's obsessive focus on
deposing Yasir Arafat, a policy suggested by the neo-cons years before Bush
came to office, is a dodge and a diversion that merely perpetuates the
conflict by failing to address its real roots. Advocates of this policy
fail or refuse to see that, however unappealing the Palestinian leadership,
it is not the cause of the conflict, and "regime change" among the
Palestinians will do nothing to end the violence. The administration's
utter refusal to engage in any mediation process that might produce a
stable, equitable peace, also a neo-con strategy based on the paranoid
belief that any peace involving territorial compromise will spell the
annihilation of Israel, will also merely prolong the violence. Zealotry
produces blindness: the zealous effort to pursue Israel's right-wing agenda
has blinded the dual loyalists in the administration to the true face of
Israel as occupier, to any concern for justice or equity and any
consideration that interests other than Israel's are involved, and indeed
to any pragmatic consideration that continued unquestioning accommodation
of Israel, far from bringing an end to violence, will actually lead to its
tragic escalation and to increased terrorism against both the United States
and Israel.

What does it matter, in the end, if these men split their loyalties between
the United States and Israel? Apart from the evidence of the policy
distortions that arise from zealotry, one need only ask whether it can be
mere coincidence that those in the Bush administration who most strongly
promote "regime change" in Iraq are also those who most strongly support
the policies of the Israeli right wing. And would it bother most Americans
to know that the United States is planning a war against Iraq for the
benefit of Israel? Can it be mere coincidence, for example, that Vice
President Cheney, now the leading senior-level proponent of war with Iraq,
repudiated just this option for all the right reasons in the immediate
aftermath of the Gulf War in 1991? He was defense secretary at the time,
and in an interview with the New York Times on April 13, 1991, he said:

"If you're going to go in and try to topple Saddam Hussein, you have to go
to Baghdad. Once you've got Baghdad, it's not clear what you will do with
it. It's not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the
one that's currently there now. Is it going to be a Shia regime, a Sunni
regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Ba'athists, or one
that tilts toward the Islamic fundamentalists. How much credibility is that
government going to have if it's set up by the United States military when
it's there? How long does the United States military have to stay to
protect the people that sign on for the government, and what happens to it
once we leave?"

Since Cheney clearly changed his mind between 1991 and today, is it not
legitimate to ask why, and whether Israel might have a greater influence
over U.S. foreign policy now than it had in 1991? After all,
notwithstanding his wisdom in rejecting an expansion of the war on Iraq a
decade ago, Cheney was just as interested in promoting U.S. imperialism and
was at that same moment in the early 1990s outlining a plan for world
domination by the United States, one that did not include conquering Iraq
at any point along the way. The only new ingredient in the mix today that
is inducing Cheney to begin the march to U.S. world domination by
conquering Iraq is the presence in the Bush-Cheney administration of a bevy
of aggressive right-wing neo-con hawks who have long backed the Jewish
fundamentalists of Israel's own right wing and who have been advocating
some move on Iraq for at least the last half dozen years?

The suggestion that the war with Iraq is being planned at Israel's behest,
or at the instigation of policymakers whose main motivation is trying to
create a secure environment for Israel, is strong. Many Israeli analysts
believe this. The Israeli commentator Akiva Eldar recently observed frankly
in a Ha'aretz column that Perle, Feith, and their fellow strategists "are
walking a fine line between their loyalty to American governments and
Israeli interests." The suggestion of dual loyalties is not a verboten
subject in the Israeli press, as it is in the United States. Peace activist
Uri Avnery, who knows Israeli Prime Minister Sharon well, has written that
Sharon has long planned grandiose schemes for restructuring the Middle East
and that "the winds blowing now in Washington remind me of Sharon. I have
absolutely no proof that the Bushies got their ideas from him . But the
style is the same."

The dual loyalists in the Bush administration have given added impetus to
the growth of a messianic strain of Christian fundamentalism that has
allied itself with Israel in preparation for the so-called End of Days.
These crazed fundamentalists see Israel's domination over all of Palestine
as a necessary step toward fulfillment of the biblical Millennium, consider
any Israeli relinquishment of territory in Palestine as a sacrilege, and
view warfare between Jews and Arabs as a divinely ordained prelude to
Armageddon. These right-wing Christian extremists have a profound influence
on Bush and his administration, with the result that the Jewish
fundamentalists working for the perpetuation of Israel's domination in
Palestine and the Christian fundamentalists working for the Millennium
strengthen and reinforce each other's policies in administration councils.
The Armageddon that Christian Zionists seem to be actively promoting and
that Israeli loyalists inside the administration have tactically allied
themselves with raises the horrifying but very real prospect of an
apocalyptic Christian-Islamic war. The neo-cons seem unconcerned, and
Bush's occasional pro forma remonstrations against blaming all Islam for
the sins of Islamic extremists do nothing to make this prospect less likely.

These two strains of Jewish and Christian fundamentalism have dovetailed
into an agenda for a vast imperial project to restructure the Middle East,
all further reinforced by the happy coincidence of great oil resources up
for grabs and a president and vice president heavily invested in oil. All
of these factors -- the dual loyalties of an extensive network of
policymakers allied with Israel, the influence of a fanatical wing of
Christian fundamentalists, and oil -- probably factor in more or less
equally to the administration's calculations on the Palestinian-Israeli
situation and on war with Iraq. But the most critical factor directing U.S.
policymaking is the group of Israeli loyalists: neither Christian
fundamentalist support for Israel nor oil calculations would carry the
weight in administration councils that they do without the pivotal input of
those loyalists, who clearly know how to play to the Christian fanatics and
undoubtedly also know that their own and Israel's bread is buttered by the
oil interests of people like Bush and Cheney. This is where loyalty to
Israel by government officials colors and influences U.S. policymaking in
ways that are extremely dangerous.

***


Kathleen Christison worked for 16 years as a political analyst with the
CIA, dealing first with Vietnam and then with the Middle East for her last
seven years with the Agency before resigning in 1979. Since leaving the
CIA, she has been a free-lance writer, dealing primarily with the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Her book, "Perceptions of Palestine: Their
Influence on U.S. Middle East Policy," was published by the University of
California Press and reissued in paperback with an update in October 2001.
A second book, "The Wound of Dispossession: Telling the Palestinian Story,"
was published in March 2002.


Bill Christison joined the CIA in 1950, and served on the analysis side of
the Agency for 28 years. From the early 1970s he served as National
Intelligence Officer (principal adviser to the Director of Central
Intelligence on certain areas) for, at various times, Southeast Asia, South
Asia and Africa. Before he retired in 1979 he was Director of the CIA's
Office of Regional and Political Analysis, a 250-person unit. They can be
reached at:
[email protected]

 

 



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