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[casi] FW: Patrick Seale/ the US Israeli alliance

Dear List,

A very informtive article, worth reading...


Patrick Seale: The intimate alliance that caused
American and Israel to be reviled
 | Special to Gulf News | 14-07-2003

Much of the talk in Europe these days - in newspaper
offices, at dinner parties, in foreign ministries - is
about how the United States and Britain were conned
into going to war against Iraq, or perhaps how they
conned the rest of us into believing that they had
good reasons for doing so.

It is now widely suspected that the war was a fraud,
but who perpetuated the fraud and on whom? Were Bush
and Blair fed fabricated intelligence or did they
knowingly massage and doctor the intelligence to
exaggerate the threat from Iraq so as to justify an

Everyone agrees that Saddam Hussain was a monster, but
the military invasion to depose him is seen by many,
and certainly on this side of the Atlantic, as
illegitimate and unprovoked, and a blatant violation
of the UN Charter, setting an unfortunate precedent in
international relations. Henceforth in the jungle,
only might is right.

Various intelligence and foreign affairs committees of
the British parliament and the U.S. Congress have
started inquiries into how the decision to go to war
was taken, when, why, and on what basis.

But it will require a superhuman effort to penetrate
the murky thicket of competing government
bureaucracies, spooks, exiles, defectors and other
self-serving sources, pro-Israeli lobbyists, magazine
editors, think-tank gurus and assorted ideologues who,
in Washington at least, have a massive say in the
shaping of foreign policy.

How did it all begin? An important part of the story,
though not the whole of it, is the special
relationship between the United States and Israel.
Warren Bass's important and timely book, Support Any
Friend, written with candour and firmly-rooted in
primary sources, takes us back to the diplomacy of the
1960s, and to what he argues were the beginnings of
today's extraordinarily intimate alliance between the
United States and Israel.

It is in effect the story of how Israel and its
American friends came to exercise a profound influence
on American policy towards the Arab and Muslim world.
Bass believes it all began with JFK. It is an
interesting thesis and he argues it well, although in
my view at least, the U.S.-Israeli entente actually
began with LBJ, after Kennedy's assassination.

The neocons - a powerful group at the heart of the
Bush administration - wanted war against Iraq and
pressed for it with great determination, overriding
and intimidating all those who expressed doubts,
advised caution, urged the need for allies and for UN
legitimacy, or recommended sticking with the
well-tried Cold War instruments of containment and

War it had to be, the neocons said, to deal with the
imminent threat from Saddam's fearsome weapons which,
as Tony Blair was rash enough to claim in his
tragicomic role as Bush's "poodle", could be fired
within 45 minutes of a launch order.

Where did the information for his remarkable statement
come from? How reliable was the pre-war intelligence
reaching Bush and Blair?

The finger is increasingly being pointed at a special
Pentagon intelligence cell, known as the Office of
Special Plans headed by Abram Shulsky, which was
created after 9/11 by two of the most fervent and
determined neocons, Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Defence
Secretary, and Douglas Feith, Under Secretary of
Defence for Policy, to probe into Saddam's WMD
programmes and his links with Al Qaida because, it is
alleged, they did not trust other intelligence
agencies of the U.S. government to come up with the

It has been suggested that this special Pentagon
intelligence cell relied heavily on the shifty Ahmad
Chalabi's network of exiled informants. If evidence
was indeed fabricated, this may well have been where
it was done.

'Bush Doctrine' emerges

One way of looking at the decision-making process in
Washington is to see it as the convergence of two
currents or trends. The first was clearly the child of
the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which
both traumatised and enraged America, shattering its
sense of invulnerability but also rousing it to "total
war" against its enemies in the manner of a Hollywood

Perhaps because they had more experience of wars and
terrorist violence, Europeans were slow to comprehend
the visceral impact of these events on the American

Suddenly mighty America was afraid - afraid of
mass-casualty terrorism; afraid of the proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction; afraid that 'rogue
states' might pass on such weapons to nebulous,
elusive, fanatical, transnational terrorist groups
such as Al Qaida, enabling them perhaps to strike
again with even more devastating effect.

The aggressive National Security Strategy of September
2002 sprang from these fears. It proclaimed that
containment and deterrence were now stone dead; that
the U.S. had to achieve and maintain total military
supremacy over all possible challengers; that any
"rogue states" which might be tempted to acquire WMD
would be dealt with without mercy by means of
preventive or preemptive war.

Under this "Bush Doctrine", the United States gave
itself the right to project its overwhelming power
wherever and whenever it pleased, to invade countries
it disliked, to overthrow their regimes, and transform
hostile "tyrannies" into friendly - read pro-American
- 'democracies'. It was a programme for global
dominance, driven by the perceived threat to America
but also by a modern version of imperial ambition.

The second overlapping trend - overlapping because
many of the same people were involved - was more
narrowly focused on Israel in its conflict with the
Palestinians and its Arab neighbours.

Right-wing Jewish neocons - and most prominent neocons
are right-wing Jews - tend to be pro-Israel zealots
who believe that American and Israeli interests are
identical, even inseparable (much to the alarm of
liberal, pro-peace Jews, whether in America, Europe or
Israel itself).

Friends of Ariel Sharon's Likud, they tend to loathe
and despise all Arabs and Muslims. For them, the cause
of "liberating" Iraq had little to do with the
well-being of Iraqis, just as the cause of
"liberating" Iran and ending its nuclear programme -
recently advocated by Shimon Peres in a Wall Street
Journal editorial - has little to do with the
well-being of Iranians. What they wished for was an
improvement in Israel's military and strategic

The Iraq crisis has made their names and organisations
familiar to every newspaper and magazine reader:
Wolfowitz and Feith, numbers 2 and 3 at the Pentagon;
Richard Perle, former chairman and still a member of
the influential Defence Policy Board, sometimes known
as the neocons' political godfather and around whom a
cloud of financial impropriety hangs; Eliott Abrams,
senior director of Middle East affairs at the National
Security Council with a controversial background in
Latin America and in the Iran/contra affair; and their
many friends, relations and kindred spirits in the
media, such as William Kristol and Robert Kagan of The
Weekly Standard, and in the numerous pro-Israeli
think-tanks, such as Frank Gaffney's Centre for
Security Studies, the American Enterprise Institute,
the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs,
the Project for the New American Century, the Centre
for Middle East Policy at the Hudson Institute, the
Washington Institute for Near East Policy (born out of
AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee)
and many others.

As has been observed by several commentators, 9/11
provided the neocons with a unique chance to harness
(some would say hijack) America's Middle East policy -
and America's military power - in Israel's interest by
succeeding in getting the US to apply the doctrine of
preemptive war to Israel's enemies.

Reform of Middle East

This trend rested on a mistaken, indeed willfully
tendentious, analysis of the attacks which the U.S.
had suffered - not just the body blow of 9/11, but
also the numerous earlier wake-up calls such as the
suicide bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa
or the attack on the USS Cole in Aden harbor.

The basic neocon argument was that terrorist attacks
should not in any way be read as the response of
angry, desperate men to what America and Israel were
doing to the Arab and Muslim world, and especially to
the Palestinians. Quite the contrary; America was
attacked because the terrorists envied the American
way of life. America was virtuous, America was "good".

The real problem, the neocons argued, lay not with
American policies but with the "sick" and "failed"
Islamic societies from which the terrorists sprang,
with their hate-driven educational system, with their
inherently "violent" and "fanatical" religion.

So, rather than correcting or changing its misguided
policies, the U.S. was urged to "reform" and
"democratise" Arab and Muslim societies - by force if
necessary - so as to ensure its own security and that
of its allies. Wars of choice became official American

Concerned to ensure Israel's continued regional
supremacy, and at odds with what they saw as
distasteful opponents, such as Islamic militancy, Arab
nationalism and Palestinian radicalism, the neocons
argued that the aim of U.S. policy in the Middle East
should be the thorough political and ideological
"restructuring" of the region.

Exporting "democracy" would serve the interests of
defending both the United States and Israel. A
"reformed" Middle East could be made pro-American and
pro-Israeli. All this seems to have amounted to an
ambitious - perhaps over-reaching - programme for
Israeli regional dominance, driven by Israel's
far-right and its way-out American friends.

First candidate

Iraq was the first candidate for a "democratic" cure,
but the need for this doubtful medicine could just as
well justify an assault on Iran, Syria, Egypt, Saudi
Arabia, or wherever a "threat" was detected or
America's reforming zeal directed. Immediately after
9/11, Wolfowitz clamoured for the destruction of
Saddam Hussain's Iraq.

This was a cause he had advocated unsuccessfully
throughout much of the 1990s. But the accession of the
neocons to positions of power, the fear of more
terrorist attacks, and the president's combative
instincts now made what had been a Dr. Strangelove
scenario appear quite do-able. No scrap of evidence,
however, could be found linking Saddam Hussain to
Osama bin Laden.

Nor did Iraq pose an imminent threat to anyone, least
of all to the U.S. or Britain. Exhausted by two wars,
it had been starved by a dozen years of the most
punitive sanctions in modern history.

Hans Blix's UN arms inspectors had roamed all over the
country and acquired a good grasp of its entire
industrial capability. They had found no evidence that
Saddam had rebuilt his WMD programmes.

They would have certainly liked more time to look
further and make quite sure. This was the view of most
European experts. Meanwhile, Arab leaders had buried
the hatchet with Iraq at the Arab Summit in Beirut of
March 2002.

All Iraq's neighbours wanted to trade with it, not
make war on it. In the atmosphere of reconciliation
which then prevailed, even Kuwait did not think it
seemly to admit that it still longed for revenge for
Saddam's 1990 invasion.

There were, however, plenty of reasons why Israel and
its friends in Washington wanted Iraq "restructured".
Saddam had dared fire SCUDS at Israel during the 1991
war and, more recently, he had been bold enough to
send money to the bereaved families of Palestinian
suicide bombers, whose homes had been flattened by
Israeli reprisals. These "crimes" had gone unpunished.

Moreover, in spite of its evident weakness, Saddam's
Iraq was the only Arab country which might in the long
run pose a strategic challenge to Israel. Egypt's
government had been neutralised and corrupted by
American subsidies and by its peace treaty with
Israel, while Syria was enfeebled by internal security
squabbles, a faltering economy and fossilized
political system.

The Iraqi leader had to be brought down. His fall, the
neocons calculated, would change the political
dynamics of the entire region. It would intimidate
Tehran and Damascus, even Riyadh and Cairo, and tilt
the balance of power decisively in Israel's favour,
allowing it to impose on the hapless Palestinians the
harsh terms of its choice. Some neocons were already
envisioning an Israel-Iraqi peace treaty as a bonus
by-product of the war.

High watermark

These concerns, in addition to control of Iraq's oil
resources, rather than Saddam's alleged WMDs, were the
real aims of the war against Iraq. They were embraced
by the United States to assuage its own fears and
restore its sense of absolute power.

But what made the attack possible - the motor behind
it - was one over-riding fact of American political
life: the U.S.-Israel alliance, as close a
relationship between two states as any in the world
today. The Iraq war was in fact the high watermark of
that alliance.

Warren Bass seeks to establish that the foundations of
the U.S.-Israel alliance were laid by the Kennedy
administration. He even gives a precise date - August
19, 1962 - for the start of the military relationship
as we know it.

On that day in Tel Aviv, Mike Feldman, the deputy
White House counsel and Kennedy's indefatigable
contact man with Israel and American Jews, met
secretly with Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir and told them
that "the President had determined that the Hawk
missile should be made available to Israel."

The Israelis were ecstatic. The Kennedy decision
destroyed the Eisenhower embargo on the sale of major
weapons systems to Israel. "What began with the Hawk
in 1962," Bass writes, "has become one of the most
expensive and extensive military relationships of the
postwar era, with a price tag in the billions of
dollars and diplomatic consequences to match."

The Hawk sale is therefore the first pillar of Bass's
case for saying that Kennedy was the father of the
U.S.-Israel alliance. The second is what he describes
as Kennedy's "fudge" over America's inspections of
Israel's secret nuclear weapons plant at Dimona in the

Although ingeniously and entertainingly argued with a
wealth of detail, the thesis is not conclusively
proven. As a matter of fact, the Kennedy team, with
the exception of Feldman and his friends, did not want
a special military relationship with Israel, fearing
that it would trigger a regional arms race.

Kennedy was not taken in by Ben-Gurion's histrionic
description of Nasser, the Egyptian leader, as a cruel
aggressor bent on Hitlerian genocide. He knew Israel
was strong enough to deal with any Arab threat. He
didn't believe it needed the advanced weapons and the
formal American security guarantee Ben-Gurion
requested. He told Ben-Gurion firmly that he did not
want to be the U.S. President that brought the Middle
East into the missile age.

Kennedy was in fact attempting to reach out to Nasser
whom he recognised as a nationalist, and not a
communist. He feared that giving Israel preferential
treatment might push the Arabs into the arms of the

In turn, the State Department's Middle East experts
saw no good reason for the United States to change its
arms policy towards Israel. As an internal memo put
it, "To undertake, in effect, a military alliance with
Israel would destroy the delicate balance we seek to
maintain in our Near East relations."

Nevertheless, Kennedy finally approved the Hawk sale,
which Eisenhower had refused two years earlier. But he
seems to have done so against his better judgement. He
was eventually worn down by Israel's persistent and
systematic exaggeration of the Egyptian menace, and
more particularly by Shimon Peres' ability, based on
chillingly detailed knowledge of internal
administration debates, to play off the Pentagon and
the NSC against the State Department.

Bass's case is also arguable regarding Dimona. Far
from turning a blind eye to what was evidently going
on there, JFK was totally opposed to Israel getting
the bomb and was prepared to disregard the views of
the American Jewish community on the matter.

In the spring of 1963 he warned Ben-Gurion in the
sharpest tones that (in Bass's words) "an Israeli
refusal to permit real Dimona inspections would have
the gravest consequences for the budding US-Israeli
friendship." He wrote Ben-Gurion two scorching
letters, on May 18 and June 15, threatening that "this
Government's commitment to and support of Israel would
be seriously jeopardized" if Israel did not permit
thorough inspections to all areas of the Dimona site.

Ben-Gurion and his successor Levi Eschol lied through
their teeth to Kennedy about Dimona but, as Bass
writes, Kennedy was preparing to force a showdown. Had
he not been assassinated on November 22, 1963, he was
on course for a confrontation with Israel.

Father of alliance

The fudge came later with Lyndon B. Johnson, who was
far less concerned than Kennedy with nuclear
proliferation. Skirting the issue of Israel's nuclear
ambitions, Johnson approved the sale to Israel of
large numbers of American tanks and warplanes even
before the 1967 blitzkrieg, which propelled the Jewish
state to stardom, pumping a large segment of the
American Jewish community full of confidence, ambition
and even arrogance.

Lyndon B. Johnson was the true father of the
U.S.-Israel alliance. It was he, rather than Kennedy,
who "set the precedent that ultimately created the
U.S.-Israel strategic relationship: a
multimillion-dollar annual business in cutting-edge
weaponry, supplemented by extensive
military-to-military dialogues, security
consultations, extensive joint training exercises, and
cooperative research-and-development ventures."

Bass raises the intriguing possibility that the Hawks
were never really intended, as Ben-Gurion pleaded, to
defend Israel's air bases from a knock out blow by
Nasser's MiGs, but rather as a perimeter defence to
protect the Dimona nuclear weapons plant. Some
indirect corroboration of this thesis was later to

In delivering its own knock-out blow to Egypt's
airforce on the first day of the 1967 war, Israel lost
eight jets in the first wave of attack. One wounded
plane came limping back to base in radio silence. It
wandered into Dimona's air space, and was promptly
shot down by an Israeli Hawk missile.

>From 1967 onwards there was no stopping the
extravagant blossoming of the U.S.-Israel relationship
and the parallel creation and financing of what Norman
G. Finkelstein has controversially called the
"Holocaust industry". If Johnson had been the father
of the alliance, Henry Kissinger was to be its

In 1970, he invited Israel to intervene in Jordan when
a beleaguered King Hussain asked for U.S. protection.
Syrian troops had entered the country in support of
militant Palestinians then engaged in a trial of
strength with the little King.

Israel was only too happy to comply with this most
irregular request. It made some much-publicised
military deployments in the direction of Jordan.
Emboldened by this support, Hussain's own forces then
engaged the Syrians, who quickly withdrew. Hussein's
army was thus left free to slaughter the Palestinians.

Rather than seeing Black September as the local tiff
that it actually was, Kissinger blew it up into an
"East-West" contest in which Israel had successfully
faced down not just the Syrians but the Russians as
well. This was the real launch of the U.S.-Israel
"strategic relationship" in which Israel was entrusted
with "keeping the peace" in the Middle East on
America's behalf - and was lavishly rewarded with
arms, aid and a cupboard-full of secret commitments
directed against Arab interests.

Kissinger adopted as America's own the main theses of
Israeli policy: that Israel had to be stronger than
any possible combination of Arab states; that the
Arabs' aspiration to recover territories lost in 1967
was "unrealistic"; that the PLO should never be
considered a peace interlocutor. His step-by-step
machinations after the October War of 1973 were
directed at removing Egypt from the Arab line-up,
exposing Palestinians and other Arabs to the full
brunt of Israeli military power.

Ariel Sharon's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 - in which
some 17,000 Palestinians and Lebanese were killed,
triggering the birth of the Hizballah resistance
movement - was a direct consequence of Kissinger's

In 1970 Israel received $30m in U.S. aid; in 1971,
after the Jordan crisis, the aid rose to $545m. During
the October War of 1973 Kissinger called for a
$3billion aid bill, and it has remained in the several
billions ever since.

'Friends of Israel'

In due course the U.S. Congress was captured by AIPAC
- in Bass's phrase, "the purring, powerful lobbying
machine of the 1980s and 1990s" - while the Washington
Institute for Near East Policy, founded in 1985 by
Martin Indyk, an Australian-born lobbyist for Israel,
set about carefully shaping opinion and placing its
men inside the Administration.

Dennis Ross, Indyk's colleague at WINEP and a
high-level negotiator for Bush I, became Clinton's
long-serving co-ordinator of the Arab-Israeli peace
process; he rarely failed to defer to Israel's
interests, which is one reason the peace process got
nowhere. He has now returned to WINEP as its director
and continued advocate.

But nothing in the history of the U.S.-Israel alliance
has equalled the accession by "friends of Israel" to
key posts in the current Bush administration, and
their determined and successful struggle to shape
America's foreign policy, especially in the Middle
East - including the destruction of Iraq.

The nagging question remains as to what the special
friendship has achieved. Have the wars, security
intrigues and political showdowns of the past decades
really served Israel's interest?

A student of the region cannot but ponder these
questions: What if the dovish Moshe Sharett had
prevailed over the hawkish Ben-Gurion in the 1950s?
Sharett sought co-existence with the Arabs whereas
Ben-Gurion's policy was to dominate them by naked
military force, with the aid of a great power patron -
ideas that have shaped Israeli thinking ever since.

What if the Occupied Territories had truly been traded
for peace after 1967 (as Ben-Gurion himself advised,
with rare prescience), or after 1973, or after the
Madrid conference of 1991, or even after the Oslo
accords of 1993? Would it not have spared Israelis and
Palestinians the pain of the intifada, with its
miserable legacy of hatred and broken lives? Has the
triumphalist dream of a "Greater Israel" (which James
Baker III, for one, warned Israel against) proved
anything other than a hideous nightmare, infecting
Israeli society with a poisonous dose of fascism?

The U.S.-Israel alliance is officially and routinely
celebrated in both countries, but its legacy is
troubling. Without it, Israel might not have succumbed
to the madness of invading Lebanon and staying there
22 years; or to the senseless brutality of its
treatment of the Palestinians; or to the short-sighted
folly of settling 400,000 Jews in Jerusalem and the
West Bank, who are now able to hold successive Israeli
governments to ransom.

An inescapable conclusion is that the intimate
alliance, and the policies that flowed from it, have
caused America and Israel to be reviled and detested
in a large part of the world - and to be exposed as
never before to terrorist attack.

The writer is a British writer and consultant on
Middle East affairs.

Warren Bass: Support Any Friend:
Kennedy's Middle East and the Making of the US-Israel
(Oxford University Press, 2003)

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