Monday, April 2, 2007

Two international groups worth watching

By David Hardy

Posted: 4/2/07

Last week saw much dialogue responding to Salil Puri's March 28 column urging us to question the patriotism of the far-left.

However, I would like to point out two groups who explicitly represent foreign interests and who have caused far more damage than any of the groups Puri mentions. They are the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee and the Iraqi National Congress.

AIPAC purports to represent the mutual interests of America and Israel, but in fact pushes support of Israel at the expense of American reputation, dollars and lives. They are consistently listed among one of the three most powerful lobbying groups in the country and, in 2005, was ranked the second-most powerful by The National Journal - ahead of the AFL-CIO and National Rifle Association.

They have made criticism of Israel the death knell for any member of Congress. Their biggest lobbying coup arguably came in 1967, when they successfully occulted outrage over Israel's deliberate attack on the USS Liberty.

Today, one of their top priorities is a presidential pardon for Jonathon Pollard, convicted in 1986 of spying for Israel. Last year, two of their lobbyists were convicted of passing American defense secrets to Israel. John Mearshimer and Stephen Walt of the University of Chicago and Harvard University respectively recently detailed the group's extraordinary influence and detrimental effects in their essay "The Israel Lobby."

The result of their stranglehold on Congress is Middle East policy that has ruined our reputation in the region. Far from being seen as an honest broker, we are viewed as an agent of Israel, supplying them with weapons and money ad infinitum.

When necessary, the United States has provided a reliable veto in the United Nations, as witnessed in last summer's war in Lebanon. Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton admitted on March 23 what everyone knew: The United States was stalling for time, holding back the U.N. to give Israel a free hand in Lebanon. Following a far right-wing Israeli policy, AIPAC was one of the strongest proponents of invading Iraq and pushes a similarly hawkish line on Iran.

Worse than AIPAC is the Iraqi National Congress, the source of some of the most damning (and flawed) evidence for an existing Iraqi WMD program. Because Saddam Hussein was simply assumed to have these programs, intelligence was fit to this conclusion and intelligence or experts that questioned this conclusion were ignored.

The CIA struggled to find satisfactory evidence, but when their professionalism got in the way, the war's architects turned to the Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella group of Iraqi dissidents and ex-patriots. The INC claimed to have contacts with defectors willing to tell Washington what they wanted to hear - for a small fee of around $500,000 a month. They told stories of mobile weapons labs and gallons of anthrax, some of which ended up in Colin Powell's 2003 address to the United Nations.

We know now that nearly all of it was fabricated by agents with a specific political agenda, including one aptly code-named "Curveball." The Washington Post revealed last year that Curveball was actually a taxi-driving con-artist with a lot to gain from a U.S. invasion. This shouldn't come as a surprise, as the INC was led by convicted-fraudster Ahmad Chalabi, who saw himself as Iraq's post-Saddam leader despite having never set foot in the country for 25 years.

The INC has been thoroughly discredited, in no small part because their intelligence collapsed like the house of cards it was. The man appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister during the occupation won just 0.5 percent of the vote in Iraq's 2005 elections. Chalabi's offices have been raided by American forces suspecting him of ties to Iran.

AIPAC, however, has avoided most of the fall-out that has hit proponents of the Iraq War, and continues to push Middle East policies of which only the Israeli far-right would approve

The United States must be vigilant that a similar nexus does not come together to attack Iran: a militaristic administration, a group of dissidents with "the missing link" information claiming to speak for a whole nation and AIPAC, one of the most powerful interest groups in the country.

Hardy is a government, geography and history junior.

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