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AIPAC lobbyists press Congress for war on Syria

January 30, 2014 at 2:38 am

While France and Russia are busy engaging in last minute diplomacy to prevent a US strike against Syria, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is deploying hundreds of activists in the US capital to win over Congressional support for the strike.

AIPAC is considered to be the most powerful organization in the Israel Lobby, wielding incredible influence. Last Saturday, an AIPAC source confirmed to Reuters that, “We plan a major lobbying effort with about 250 activists in Washington to meet with their senators and representatives” to push for a wide-scale military operation against Syria.

Indeed the pro-war lobby is now in high gear. On Monday, The Washington Post published a widely read op-ed by Stephen J. Hadley, who served as National Security Adviser in the George W. Bush administration and is also a loyal friend of AIPAC.

In his op-ed, Hadley calls upon “Every American committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” to “urge Congress to grant President Obama [the] authority to use military force against the Al-Assad regime in Syria.” Hadley also recommends an operation “robust enough to erode the Syrian regime’s military advantage.”

Of course what is at stake here is not protecting the lives of Syrians or Americans, but Israel’s interests. Back in 2005, when he addressed AIPAC’s National Summit, Hadley affirmed that the main aim of the US plan to spread democracy in the Middle East was to make the region “a safer neighbourhood for Israel.” He also stated that the US would never “ask Israel to take risks with its security to suit US purposes or US politics.”

So although Hadley pays lip service in the op-ed to US interests, the real message is that Israel’s interests come first. And if the US military does not take action in Syria, then this will be read as a victory by Iran, thus putting Israel at risk. And just in case his strong words are not enough to provoke the desired reaction among American readers, the online article features a photograph of Iran’s newly elected President Hassan Rouhani raising his hand up in the air, as if about to give a “high five” in celebration of victory.

In making his case, Hadley tells us that President Al-Assad has “repeatedly and flagrantly crossed a US ‘red line’ by using chemical weapons against his own people.”

But what is Stephen J. Hadley’s track record on making such authoritative claims?

Well, ten years ago Hadley also told us with certainty that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Back then he belonged to the White House Iraq Group and was the person responsible for allowing the forged intelligence claims that Hussein had purchased yellowcake uranium powder from Niger to be included in former President George W. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union Address, only months before the US-led invasion of Iraq.

The Sunday Times also reported that Hadley was the person responsible for leaking information about the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame to American journalist Bob Woodward in 2003, a leak that sparked a national scandal. In the US it is an offence to reveal the identity of a covert agent. The leak endangered the lives of Plame as well as her foreign intelligence sources. It also hurt America’s ability to gather intelligence.

Unfortunately Woodward never revealed his source, but CIA officer Richard Armitage eventually confessed to the crime. Of course, Armitage was never tried. The only prosecution that resulted from the investigation into the leak was against Lewis “Scooter” Libby, top aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was indicted for lying to FBI agents and the grand jury. However his sentence was later commuted by Bush.

It is widely thought that Plame was exposed because she is the wife of Joseph Wilson, “the former US ambassador sent to Niger to investigate [the] disputed claims that Saddam Hussein was trying to purchase uranium yellowcake for the manufacture of nuclear weapons.” Wilson had concluded that the claims were false, so this was the Bush administration’s payback. Intelligence officials, including Hadley, purposely ignored Wilson’s report, discredited him and his wife, and allowed the president to cite the false intelligence claims in order to justify the illegal war against Iraq.

Hadley was promoted in 2005 when he replaced Condoleezza Rice as Bush’s National Security Advisor. Two years later, he was subpoenaed in the federal espionage case against Americans Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, both former AIPAC lobbyists, and Larry Franklin, who worked in the Department of Defence. The Washington Times reports that the lobbyists were “accused of receiving classified information from a now-convicted Pentagon official and relaying it to an Israeli official and the press. The information included details about the Al-Qaeda terrorist network, US police in Iran and the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers dormitory in Saudi Arabia.”

The FBI had been watching Rosen and Weissman for some time, and its agents were able to turn Franklin in order to collect the necessary evidence to prosecute the lobbyists. Part of the plea bargain deal was that Franklin would plead guilty, but his 12 years sentence would be reduced to 100 hours of community service and 10 months in a halfway house.

According to The Washington Post, at the time the case “transfixed much of official Washington because of its potential to criminalize the exchange of sensitive information among journalists, lobbyists and policy analysts.” Rosen himself believed that “the case was politicized and pushed by government officials ‘who have an obsession with leaks… and an obsession with Israel and the theory that it spies on America’.” He was right about the case being politicized, but for the wrong reasons.

The defence attorneys cleverly subpoenaed Hadley, as well as other key Bush officials, in an effort to prove “that top US officials regularly used the lobbyists as a go-between as they crafted Middle East policy,” meaning they intended to show that unelected lobbyists for foreign governments played a key role in shaping US foreign policy. Of course the government would be against this move. So in response to the subpoenas, Federal prosecutors argued that, “senior intelligence officials should not be forced to testify about whether they discussed classified information with pro-Israel lobbyists.” In effect, the lawyers were demanding that government spies who betray the US for Israel be granted immunity. So while the government may have initially wanted to prosecute the lobbyists, they seemed unwilling to do so at the risk of exposing the extent of the Israel Lobby’s role in Washington.

Thus it is not surprising that the subpoenas were never enforced, because the case against Rosen and Weissman was dropped by the Obama administration in 2009.

Fast-forward to the present day, and the conviction of army private Bradley Manning on charges of espionage for leaking information about US war crimes to Wikileaks becomes an even greater travesty of justice. According to The Guardian, the technical reason given for why the case against Rosen and Weissman was dropped is that the prosecution had “to prove not only that the accused pair had passed classified information but that they [also] intended to harm the US in doing so.” These are difficult charges to prove in any court of law. In fact, they are the same charges that Manning was found innocent of. But for Manning, these charges were related to treason, not to espionage. For Rosen and Weissman, the bar for espionage was obviously much higher.

Such blatant double standards in the US legal system are a gross injustice. And especially considering that in leaking the information, Manning was trying to serve America’s moral interests by sparking “a broader debate on the role of the US military and to make Americans aware of the nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” as Al Jazeera American reports, whereas Rosen and Weissman were only seeking to help Israel.

It is obvious that the case was dropped not because the lobbyists were innocent of espionage, but because the trial would have disclosed classified information about how Israel controls US foreign policy, exposing in detail Washington’s Israel-first strategy. Incidentally, The Guardian revealed that during the case one member of Congress was also caught on tape “telling an Israeli agent that she would pressure the justice department to reduce spying charges against the two former AIPAC officials” in return for an esteemed committee position. However an FBI probe into the exchange was dropped by the Bush administration.

The role of American politics in the US legal system is clearly reinforcing the power and privilege of the Israel Lobby. So while Manning is serving a 35-year jail sentence, Armitage, Rosen, Weissman and Franklin all walk free. And then, of course, there is Hadley, who may not be a leaker but is still a liar, like Libby. It seems that the role of American politics in the US media is also clearly reinforcing the power and privilege of the Israel Lobby. Why else would Hadley, a proven liar, be given a platform in one of the nation’s most respected newspapers to present the case for yet another illegal US war?

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.