Should John Walker Lindh be found guilty of taking up arms against the United States, pursuant to a fair trial before a court of competent jurisdiction, this writer would have no objection in principle to seeing him executed, or put away for a long period. The law is the law; one may say this without engaging in bloodthirsty rancor or the cheap, pseudo-patriotic histrionics that are the custom on talk radio or the cable “news” channels.
That having been stipulated, the American Taliban case raises fundamental questions of group loyalty, and what it means to cross the line between Constitutionally-protected activities and openly treasonable behavior. Moreover, if Walker Lindh’s youth and alleged naiveté turn out to be mitigating circumstances, how are we to judge disloyalty committed by older, presumably responsible citizens who swear an oath to protect the Constitution when they assume elective office?
What happens, indeed, when inverted and transferred loyalty becomes so general as hardly to be noticeable?
Probably the emblematic example of this kind of generalized disloyalty to the country of one’s birth is the Vichy government of France. Histories of the fall of France, such as William Shirer’s Collapse of the Third Republic, or Alistair Horne’s To Lose a Battle, take pains to emphasize that France’s military collapse and generally subservient loyalty to German occupation had their source not in military weakness per se, but in the profound cynicism, corruption, and attenuated loyalty of interwar France’s professional class of politicians.
One of the archetypes that reverberates in our extended historical memory is the thoroughly distasteful picture of the dozing, senile Petain, the feral, rat-like Leval, and a supporting cast of seedy hack politicians clenching acrid Gauloise cigarettes between tobacco-stained fingers. When Petain spoke of the “duty of loyalty” of France’s citizens to a collaborationist regime, the modern reader has no difficulty in calculating that black is white and up is down. Loyalty to France was not the loyalty preached and practiced by the politicians in Vichy. At the end of World War II, many of these politicians found themselves at the end of a rope.
What, then, is one to make of our representatives and senators in Congress assembled?
For expressions of sheer grovelling subservience to a foreign power, the pronouncements of Laval and Petain pale in comparison to the rhetorical devotion with which certain Congressmen have bathed the Israel of Ariel Sharon.
In March, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma took the Senate floor and said the September 11 attacks were punishment by God in response to U.S. policy toward Israel. Asserting that Israel is “entitled” to the West Bank, he also criticized his fellow citizens who counselled the Israelis to use restraint, in effect blaming them for the terrorist attacks of September 11: “One of the reasons I believe the spiritual door was opened for an attack against the United States of America is that the policy of our government has been to ask the Israelis, and demand it with pressure, not to retaliate in a significant way against the terrorist strikes that have been launched against them.”
According to this Tornado-Belt St. Augustine, God in effect allowed airliners to be flown into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon because U.S. actions towards Israel offended the Almighty. In other words, the United States was punished because the Bush administration had been insufficiently worshipful towards Israel (the $3 billion annually that Congress squeezes out of the taxpayer as tribute to the Jewish State is apparently not sufficient in the opinion of this self-styled “fiscal conservative”–and in the opinion of the Almighty Himself, Whose inscrutable will Inhofe claims to be able to interpret).
Like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, Inhofe believes America suffered divinely-ordained punishment; but the Senator adds a new twist: those 3,000 innocent Americans died, he believes, because their government demonstrated insufficient obeisance to a foreign country. For sheer treacherous Quislingism, Inhofe’s statement is hard to top.
But top it we can.
A perusal of the May 6, 2002 Jerusalem Post reveals the following headline: “Visiting Congressmen Advise Israel to Resist US Administration Pressure.” The Israeli newspaper chronicles the pilgrimage of a group of Congressional wardheelers to the Promised Land, carrying with them a copy of the resolution of support for the Israeli government which passed Congress by a vote of 352-21 with 29 abstentions. The delegation’s leader, Rep. James Saxton of New Jersey, displayed a copy of the resolution to reporters, which he said they wanted to “hand deliver” to the Israeli people. Saxton’s enthusiasm for Israel is a matter of long standing, and extends to providing Congressional employment to Israeli citizen–and rumored Mossad asset–Yosef Bodansky.
An ironic aspect to this Congressional junket is that these are precisely the public officials who routinely suggest that dissent against the Bush administration’s conduct of the war in Afghanistan is tantamount to treason.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle’s tepid criticism of Bush’s policies in March elicited a firestorm of self-righteous indignation from Republicans, and Daschle, duly chastised, slunk offstage.
No criticism of President Bush is warranted, apparently, except where Israel is involved. In that case, one is seemingly permitted to travel to foreign countries at taxpayer expense for the purpose of publicly undercutting one’s own government’s foreign policy. What gives this circumstance added savor is the recollection that Jesse Jackson’s erstwhile forays into hostage negotiation in Lebanon and the Balkans met with grumbling from Republicans that Jackson ought to be prosecuted for violating the Logan Act. Again, apparently the Israel exception applies.
A further example of Vichyite subservience is provided by John McCain, adored pet of newspaper editorial boards and in relentless competition with Joseph Lieberman as Conscience of the Senate pro tempore. Addressing the closing plenary session of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee at the Jefferson Memorial on April 23, McCain plighted his troth with Sharon’s Israel in a manner that would have been denounced as fellow-travelership or useful idiocy had it been Henry Wallace praising the Soviet Union.
Invoking Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson (the founder, as it were, of Congressional Vichyism: a truly odious pork-barreling errand boy of the military industrial complex whose chief contribution to American statecraft was launching the careers of the smoothly sinister Richard Perle and howling militarist Frank Gaffney) McCain described the indissoluble moral bond between the American Republic and the Middle Eastern apartheid state run by an ex-general currently under indictment by a Belgian court for war crimes. Indeed, “To be proudly pro-American and pro-Israeli is not to hold conflicting loyalties. As Scoop understood, it is about defending the principles that both countries hold dear. And I stand before you today, proudly pro-American and pro-Israel.” It is notable that McCain produced this effusion at an American national memorial, surrounded by Israeli flags. The Senator apparently thinks that this scene would be so impressive to his Arizona constituents that he put a picture of it on his web site.
Command performances before AIPAC have become standard features in the life of a Washington elected official, like filing FEC reports and hitting on interns. The stylized panegyrics delivered at the annual AIPAC meeting have all the probative value of the Dniepropetrovsk Soviet’s birthday greeting to Stalin, because the actual content is unimportant; what is crucial is that the politician in question be seen to be genuflecting before the AIPAC board. In fact, to make things easier, the speeches are sometimes written by an AIPAC employee, with cosmetic changes inserted by a member of the Senator’s or Congressman’s own staff.
Of course, there are innumerable lobbies in Washington, from environmental to telecommunications to chiropractic; why is AIPAC different? For one thing, it is a political action committee that lobbies expressly on behalf of a foreign power; the fact that it is exempt from the Foreign Agents’ Registration Act is yet another mysterious “Israel exception.” For another, it is not just the amount of money it gives, it is the political punishment it can exact: just ask Chuck Percy or Pete McClosky. Since the mid-1980s, no Member of Congress has even tried to take on the lobby directly. As a Senate staffer told this writer, it is the “cold fear” of AIPAC’s disfavor that keeps the politicians in line.
This scam has been going on for decades.
The main purpose, other than to maintain the flow of weapons and loot to Israel, is to keep Congress’s investigatory apparatus turned off. AIPAC appears to be batting a thousand.
Lyndon Johnson’s decision to cover up the deliberate and protracted Israeli attack on the U.S.S. Liberty in June 1967 (and which resulted in 34 deaths: almost double the deaths suffered by the crew of the U.S.S. Cole) was pointedly not investigated by Congress. Instead, the surviving crew were shamefully bullied into silence by the gargoyle Johnson and his functionaries; those who did break their silence later were reviled by the lobby as delusional anti-Semites.
Likewise, the Congressional investigation into the Beirut barracks bombing stuck to the narrow issue of the incompetent U.S. military chain of command, and avoided the wider issue of the Marines’ presence as sitting ducks in the middle of Sharon’s first war of conquest. A retired officer has asserted that the Mossad had intelligence from informers that the frame of a truck was being reinforced to carry a heavy load of explosives, but chose to keep the intelligence secret. Despite the lobby’s claim that the U.S.-Israel relationship is one of mutual intelligence sharing, the real relationship is a starker one: according to old intelligence hands, Israel takes all and gives nothing, even if U.S. lives are at stake.
The way for then-National Security Advisor Bud McFarlane’s “opening to Iran” was paved by the fact that Israel was already providing F-4 Phantom spare parts (manufactured in the United States and transported to Israel at American taxpayer expense) to Iran on the sly as a way of counterbalancing Iraq’s military power.
The extent to which President Reagan’s privatized foreign policy used these pre-existing links to pursue the Iranian opening is uncertain. What is certain is that the joint House-Senate investigating committee, chaired by long-time AIPAC favorite Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, took some pains to steer the investigation away from Israel, so that those links would not be made public in a way that would embarrass our Major non-NATO Ally.
Finally, for a country that loves a good spy mystery–whether it is Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs, or Robert Hansen, each one eliciting from Capitol Hill cries for an investigation, more polygraphs, increased use of the death penalty, etc., etc.–Congress’s deafening silence over the Israeli “art students” saga, particularly after 9/11, is astonishing for those unfamiliar with Congress’s reticence about embarrassing Israel.
All the more amazing that only two years before, the Hill was in an uproar over the Chinese spy hysteria (the fact that Wen Ho Lee, the apparently falsely accused Los Alamos employee, had been fingered in the columns of manic Zionist and Sharon confidant William Safire supplies an almost O. Henry quality of irony to the tale). The full story of how hundreds of Mossad agents-in-training were literally inundating Federal facilities in the year and a half prior to 9/11 may never be known, thanks to a total smothering by the Justice Department, Congress, and the major media, but a good summary may be read in the following here.
As year chases year, the lobby’s power to influence Congress on any issue of importance to Israel grows inexorably stronger. In 1995, coincidentally the year her then-husband became Speaker of the House, Marianne Gingrich was hired by the Israel Export Development Co., Ltd (IEDC) as its vice president for business development. Mrs. Gingrich’s interest in Israel began during an eight-day trip to Israel she and her husband made in August 1994 at AIPAC’s expense.
Was it a political payoff from a foreign power?
“If I were going to get a political payoff, it would not be for the amount of money I am making,” said Mrs. Gingrich, who had no experience in the field. Her salary was $2,500 per month, “plus commissions,” the size of which neither she nor anyone connected with the business would reveal.
By an even odder coincidence, the newly-minted Speaker Gingrich’s foreign policy prescriptions became stridently pro-Israel and bellicosely opposed to the countries that Israel designates as enemies. One of Gingrich’s notable forays into diplomacy at the time was his public call for the CIA to overthrow the government of Iran. Someone apparently failed to remind the Speaker that the agency had already engineered an Iranian coup in 1953–and look how well that little enterprise turned out.
Israel’s strategy of using its influence on the American political system to turn the U.S. national security apparatus into its own personal attack dog–or Golem–has alienated the United States from much of the Third World, has worsened U.S. ties to Europe amid rancorous insinuations of anti-Semitism, and makes the United States a hated bully. And by cutting off all diplomatic lines of retreat–as Sharon did when he publicly made President Bush, the leader of the Free World, look like an impotent fool–Israel paradoxically forces the United States to draw closer to Israel because there is no thinkable alternative for American politicians than continuing to invest political capital in Israel.
We have now reached the point where there may be no turning back as nuclear Armageddon beckons from the Middle East. Writing recently in The Washington Post, Chris Patten, the European commissioner for external relations, says “a senior Democratic senator [alas, Patten does not name him] told a visiting European the other day: ‘All of us here are members of Likud now.'”
So it has come to this: members of the world’s greatest deliberative body, the heirs of Clay, La Follette, and Taft, now identify themselves with a radical political movement that grew out of the terrorism of Judeo-Fascist and Mussolini admirer Vladimir Jabotinsky; Menachim Begin, co-conspirator in the bombing of the King David Hotel; and Ariel Sharon, the butcher of Sabra and Shatila.
Whether they identify with Sharon’s Israel because of crass political advantage, or because, like those of Senator Inhofe’s, their views are indistinguishable from the delusions of a certifiable lunatic, our Vichy Congress is driving us down the path of a final, fatal clash of civilizations. All Americans, be they old-line conservatives who hate seeing their country hopelessly embroiled in the Old World’s perpetual quarrels, or liberals in the honorable anti-imperilialist and antimilitarist tradition of William Jennings Bryan, or the apolitical who resent the prospect of becoming an irradiated corpse, must put aside their differences and start loudly and persistently identifying these Congressional Likudniki for what they are: Quislings.
George Sunderland * is the pen name of a Congressional staff member. Comments to Sunderland can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org