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Day 17

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Congress Fold Again

AIPAC Intervenes on Iran

by BADRUDDIN KHAN

It has happened again, and in the open. The American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) which heads a network of pro-Israeli lobbies, persuaded Congress to drop a provision which would have required President Bush to ask for Congressional approval prior to attacking Iran.

As reported in the May 16, 2007 issue of The Hill:

"The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an influential group that advocates strong U.S. ties with Israel, lobbied heavily to remove the Iran provision in the supplemental, arguing that the measure would weaken President Bush’s attempts to dissuade Iran from developing nuclear weapons."

This intervention by AIPAC to permit President Bush to act without Congressional debate was widely reported, as was AIPAC’s earlier intervention with a supplemental budget bill.

In other words, a Democratic Congress elected to end the Iraq war has willingly given up its right (and responsibility) to engage in public debate prior to a new act of war against Iran, a sovereign nation. By voting to look the other way, Congress has left this war decision to the discretion of an unpopular president, who has already failed once.

Why on earth would the Democrats, empowered to change the administration’s current foreign policy regime, ignore popular will? One reason, of course, is AIPAC.

It is now generally seen by all (but noticed by few) that AIPAC interests dominate US strategy in the Mideast. Its influence over our centralized power centers in Washington and elsewhere is widely discussed. This grip on power is exercised ruthlessly, and frequently, and pre-emptively by AIPAC. A good (short) writeup that describes AIPAC’s ominous methods is Michael Massing’s essay in the New York Review of Books, June 8, 2006. An excellent (longer) writeup is the classic Harvard Kennedy School paper by Profs. Mearscheimer & Walt.

To trace AIPAC’s ascent, one has to start by acknowledging the admirable democratic instincts of Americans as individuals. These instincts are founded in our belief in the self-evident equality of all citizens. Local volunteer organizations, churches, and philanthropic dedication are testaments to our commitment to our communities and to our democratic foundation. America’s strength derives from this foundation, which shapes its identity and guides its purpose.

The further we get from our communities, however, the looser the resemblance of the power-process to actual democracy. As we reach Washington and the centralized halls of power, the balance tilts from one-person-one-vote towards one-dollar-one-vote. This is where foreign policy is made, this is where money, organization, and crafty strategies matter, and this is where lobbyists cut deals behind the scenes. This is where the irrational behavior of our elected politicians is explained through spin, and manipulated through money. This is the home turf of lobbyists, and of AIPAC.

AIPAC has apparently been good for Israel. On his last trip to the US, Israel’s Prime Minister Olmert publicly thanked the US for the destruction of Iraq (the neoconservatives would have called it "creative destruction"), and then unambiguously pointed the finger in Iran’s direction. Nobody had the patriotic courage to raise the obvious question: attacking Iran may be good for Israel, but is it good for the US? And, is there conflict of interest at work?

BADRUDDIN KHAN lives in San Francisco. He can be reached at: bkhan@hotmail.com