FEBRUARY 7, 2013 5:42PM

Profound Intimidation of Israel Lobby & Chuck Hagel

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The U.S., supposedly the world’s only “superpower” with a defense budget over a trillion dollars this year (according to Jim Lobe greater than the combined budgets of the 10 next-most powerful militaries), recently held confirmation hearings conducted by its Senate Armed Services Committee with former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense.

Jim Lobe in his article “The Hagel Circus” at first addresses Stephen Walt’s reaction to the hearings. Walt, a Harvard professor who co-authored a book entitled “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” suggested his own 2007 book should now sell like hotcakes since the hearings vindicate all he has been saying about the intimidation powers of the Israel lobby on our politicians.

Mr. Walt:

“I want to thank the Emergency Committee for Israel, Sheldon Adelson, and the Senate Armed Services Committee for providing such a compelling vindication of our views.”

Lobe goes on to explain:

As evidence, Walt cited the number of mentions of Israel and its most powerful regional foe, Iran, received in the course of Hagel’s eight-hour ordeal – 166 and 144, respectively, according to a compilation by the Internet publication, Buzzfeed.

By comparison, he noted, the epidemic of suicides among U.S. troops – a necessary concern for any incoming Pentagon chief – was addressed only twice.

In fact, the degree to which Israel and the threat posed to it by Iran dominated the hearing was somewhat understated by Buzzfeed. The full transcript revealed that Israel was brought up no less than 178 times, followed closely by Iran with 171 mentions.

Lobe helps put the excessive referencing to Israel and Iran into further context. There were only five mentions of China, which is supposed to be the Obama administration’s primary “pivot” focus at this point. Japan was mentioned only once (by Hagel himself), Washington’s closest Asian ally. South Korea mentioned only once, our other key treaty ally in Asia. NATO was mentioned only five times, considered such a major military alliance especially after 12 years in Afghanistan and the especially question-worthy war in Libya last year. More from Lobe of the rundown of mentions:

Yet Israel was mentioned more often in the hearing, according to IPS’s tally, than the following countries or entities combined: Iraq (30), Afghanistan (27), Russia (23), Palestine or Palestinian (22), Syria (18), North Korea (11), Pakistan (10), Egypt (9), China (5), NATO (5), Libya (2), Bahrain (2), Somalia (2), Al-Qaeda (2), and Mali, Jordan, Turkey, Japan, and South Korea (once each).

Several key regional powers with which Washington has been trying hard to build or already enjoys strong defence relationships – notably India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia – were not mentioned even a single time. Vietnam was mentioned 41 times but exclusively in relation to Hagel’s wartime service there or his work as a senior official in the Veterans Administration.

Clearly the senators were concerned about Israel’s needs in a Secretary of Defense, more than America’s primary ones.

Lobe writes:

In fact, Hagel’s views on the Middle East and the use of military force, in particular, not only largely reflect those of the administration and, according to public-opinion polls, of a war-weary electorate, but also of most of the foreign-policy elite. Dozens of retired top-ranked diplomatic, intelligence, and military officials, as well as former Cabinet officers from both Republican and Democratic administration have rallied to Hagel’s defence in recent weeks.

But those “mainstream” views are not reflected in Congress, where the Israel lobby has long wielded its greatest influence.


“They were not asking questions that had any relevance to the tasks facing the secretary of defence, in terms of either the military or budgetary challenges we face,” noted Amb. Chas. Freeman (ret.), whose appointment early in the Obama administration to head the National Intelligence Council (NIC) provoked such a furious campaign by neo-conservatives and key Israel lobby figures that he felt compelled to withdraw his name from consideration.

Lobe further explains that the anti-Hagel attacks prior to the hearings came from a number of groups that refused to disclose the identities of the donors. One major one was the ECI, Emergency Committee for Israel.

The NYT has identified billionaire Sheldon Adelson, biggest contributor to Romney’s campaign last year and “staunch supporter” of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, as leading an attack “by far the most expensive and organised ever mounted against a cabinet nominee”.

Hagel was charged by these groups as well as by some members of the bipartisan Israel lobby and others with being anti-Semitic, incredibly in part because Hagel had ONCE used the phrase “Jewish” (not “Israel”) lobby. They contended he was and is hostile to Israel. That he is too “sympathetic” to the Palestinians. Too eager to use diplomacy with Iran.

Lobe reveals that while AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) declared its “neutrality” on Hagel after the formal nomination by Obama, “they worked with sympathetic senators from both parties and their staffers to ensure that particular questions would be asked that would elicit reassuring answers with respect to both supporting Israel and preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear bomb by any means necessary.”

Apparently their questions filled up much of the hearings according to the statistics of mentions cited above.

Winslow Wheeler of Time had this to say about the Hagel hearings:

Watching the Senate Armed Services Committee interact Thursday with former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel—President Obama’s candidate to be secretary of defense—was a profoundly depressing experience.

Hagel’s performance in his “confirmation” hearing was remarkable; he spent the day eating his own words under pressure mostly from Republicans—so much so that it is hard to understand what views he might actually hold.

Unlike most effective politicians who are always clever at saying nothing or changing positions, he was so inarticulate at doing so that it is also hard to understand how he ever could have been elected twice to the Senate from Nebraska.

Wheeler’s take on members of the Senate Armed Services Committee:

Several Democrats seem mostly interested in protecting themselves from being seen as too cozy with Hagel because of his previous statements about Israel, its issues and its lobby (eg. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.), and others seemed mostly concerned about pork (eg. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.). Only moderate Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) seemed to be more worried about Hagel’s declining fate on the committee than feathering his own political nest.

However, even the worst of the Democrats strode as giants compared to the Republicans, who were all relentless in their cheap shots to justify their predetermined hostility to Hagel.

Particularly offensive was Senator John McCain‘s (R-Ariz.) insistence that the witness pay homage to McCain’s dogma on the sanctity of the “surge” as rescuing America from ignominy in Iraq (which it did not).

Senator Jim Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) bumbling small-mindedness was a gruesome introduction of himself to the nation as the leading (most senior) Republican on the armed services committee. If this is the best the Republicans can do to explain themselves to the country on national-security issues, their domicile in America’s political wilderness has a long way to go before it is over.

How ironic that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) should use intimidation to corner the cowering Hagel into professing he could think of no senator that was intimidated by the Israel lobby.

Having seen that sort of intimidation for decades as a Senate staffer (both from senators and lobbyists), it was a sad moment indeed in the annals of the Senate to see a witness not stand up to the tawdry tactics; a historic moment for pride as a citizen it was surely not.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) spent his time, like McCain, demanding that Hagel agree with Cruz’s attacks on him, even attempting to put words in Hagel’s mouth that Hagel finally said he never said.

That exchange was the one time in the entire hearing that Hagel stood up for himself. But it came so late, and was so fleeting, that he clearly did not undo the harm his mealy-mouthing did to his own nomination.

Wheeler’s final impression:

The Hagel nomination to be secretary of defense is surely now in trouble. The Republicans had their way with him so easily that they surely will widen the offensive—and its offensiveness—to make it a major partisan food fight. The White House has already put out a statement defending Hagel with a defensiveness that clearly denotes its concern, and it must now know it has a problem.

Hagel’s blood is in the water—poured there by himself—and now the Republicans are sure to pour in all the bile and poison their fund raising machines can come up with, which is a lot.

There is a joke I heard a long time ago about why Israel never wanted to be our fifty-first state.Because then it would have only TWO senators.

I find it no longer amusing.


[cross-posted on correntewire] 

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it ain't necessarily so. hagel may simply have adopted a rope-a-dope tactic to get by the committee, relying on party support from dems. it really doesn't matter.

what matters is the grip aipac has on congress. i presume bribery is so wide-spread, so well-documented, that many in congress might find themselves charged with treason, rather than corruption. difficult to imagine any other reason for the rabid support of israel.

hagel may be sane, and untainted. but he will change nothing. the leviathan of the usa government has too many thousands of bureaucrats entrenched in imperial policy, too many politicians dependent on militarism for votes and for money. obama couldn't even close xray.

this ship of state is fixed in course and much evil will inevitably result. not least, environmental destruction, which is probably more dangerous than an imperial policy in the middle east.
There is a joke I heard a long time ago about why Israel never wanted to be our fifty-first state.Because then it would have only TWO senators.

I find it no longer amusing.

Yeah, that pretty much covers it.

I'm beginning to wonder if AIPAC/the Israeli Government isn't getting so involved in the selection of a cabinet member that really SHOULDN'T have much involvement with them because they have/are using the US military for their own devices.

It seems that WE are keeping the rest of the middle east involved in wars & conflicts, which leaves them free to build their own military, receive even MORE billions in aid, build MORE settlements in occupied territory and murder even MORE Palestinians.

To do any more for them we'd have to give up hand puppet status and let Netanyahu and the Knesset have DIRECT control.
AIPAC has taken no position re: the Hagel nomination.

Some Jewish orgs have.

AIPAC rarely, if ever, takes positions on presaidential nomines.
"AIPAC has taken no position re: the Hagel nomination."


AIPAC has taken no OVERT position re: the Hagel nomination. They sure as hell ave exerted EXTREME pressure both directly and through their "tentacle Gorgonizations".

Israel wasn't mentioned over 170 times just out of the blue, JW. There was TREMENDOUS pressure.
Israel certainly wields a lot of power in our domestic politics over our foreign policy, although that is true of many allies, South Korea too, if not as publicly, just building Hyundai factories and such, also because of some cultural differences many might say too, as with Japan, the latter not weak in terms of influence here.
Iran is rather important as a policy issue now, and if you have said some things that make people wonder if you are a closeted Goebels, well, questions will be asked.
Walt's book is a good one, although Arabs wield influence too.
Call it corrupt possibly, although in a democratic state allied with relatively free places, there you go, as to people listening.
At least it is a relationship different than the Warsaw Pact was, if the Israelis sometimes some might wonder are a Dachshund thinking it too much the Pit Bull, Belgium acting like Prussia, like Kissinger once warned.
I agree with Al. I think the Republicans will confirm him - that most of this was just for show. One thing that will change is the US will remove their secret drone bases from Saudi Arabia. Some very influential members of the Saudi Royal family have taken the position they don't won't any US military presence near Islam's holy sites.

As I say, numbers of Jewish and Zionist groups have taken positions on the Hagel nomination. But AIPAC isn't one of them. If you're using the term "AIPAC" as a generic name for all pro-Israel U.S.-based lobbying groups, you can, of course, especially if you're not interested in accuracy.

The truth is that numbers of pro-Israel lobbying groups have come out against and for Hagel. AIPAC has made no pro or anti Hagel statement or position and so you will not find one.

Lump them all together? Fine. But it hardly makes your statements more credible.
Don Rich, since you have demonized me by suggesting I may be a Chinese or Russian operative in a previous thread of one of my blogs, and now you are demonizing me as a closeted and misspelled Goebbels, I am going to ask you to stop commenting on my blogs.

Jonathan, AIPAC is mentioned in the above blog. "Taken positions" I assume you mean "official" positions which in no way indicates neutrality and lack of vast backroom networking in terms of this nomination. Amy is right in that AIPAC is a MIGHTY SOURCE of the intimidation on Congress re Hagel (and so many other policy matters as well as on state and local politicians across the country). Schumer is backing Hagel so Hagel will presumably "fly right" and not offer any desperately needed "tough love" re Israel, but he sure is being made a punished, pathetic example not to be "politically incorrect" or "inconvenient" to Israel firsters and those pimped out to them. Especially targeted, anyone in Washington remotely interested in getting serious with diplomacy and Iran. But apparently that is oxymoronic.

The quote from my blog above re AIPAC from Lobe:

"Lobe reveals that while AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) declared its “neutrality” on Hagel after the formal nomination by Obama, “they worked with sympathetic senators from both parties and their staffers to ensure that particular questions would be asked that would elicit reassuring answers with respect to both supporting Israel and preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear bomb by any means necessary.”"

All those questions filled up the time and focus of the hearing apparently.

Go ahead and call the OS police then, whoever that is here, as you sure dish it out but as usual with your type, can't take it even a little bit.
I may not be able to protect myself from character assassination by others on other blogs on this website, but at least I can assert a line on my own. You went over the top and very quickly and if you don't see it, that is your problem, not mine.
Libby I appreciate very much that your responses here are civil and that they are nuanced. I have no doubt that AIPAC members have strong feelimgs one way or another as to Mr, Hagel and that AIPAC, like all lobbies do, press its cases to Congress. I also know that unlike some Zionist lobbies, AIPAC has not taken a position on the nomination.

I am, btw, for the conformation of Mr. Hagel.
Just a quick scan now running short on time but; these statistics may be helpful but they aren't nearly as good as the information that Stephen Walt and many other provide that is routinely ignored by the corporate press.

When it comes to Iran and many other issues they ignore most of the aspects that don't suit their purposes like the fact that Iran never would have been taken over by radicals if they didn't have to deal with the 1953 US coup and several activities since then.

I'm sure you're aware of this but many other members of the public aren't.