Saturday, January 11, 2014

Peace or war: Tell your senator to vote NO on S. 1881

Just when I decide that Obama exemplifies corruption beyond redemption, I read something like this:
The White House on Thursday challenged a group of senators to admit they are working to push the country toward war with Iran, upping the tension between the administration and Senate advocates of tough new sanctions amid nuclear negotiations.

"If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so," Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council spokeswoman, said in a statement. "Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed."

The "certain members" the White House is referring to are led by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who is pushing legislation, backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, that would tighten sanctions on the Iranian regime despite the ongoing negotiations.
The White House has consistently signaled its opposition to the bill, warning that it could unravel the delicate talks underway, and has promised a veto if it passes. But Thursday's statement is the first public accusation that the senators pushing the bill may have motivations they are not "up front with."
Menendez has received massive contributions from AIPAC, and he is delivering service for payment. The bill has the paternalistic name of "The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act," or S. 1881.

What amazes me is that everyone knows that this is all about Israel. Americans -- ordinary Americans, decent Americans, non-racist Americans, sensible Americans -- are allowing themselves to say things like the following (culled from HuffPo's reader reactions):
It's wonderful what lobbyists have done to our political system. From ALEC to these Pro-Israel lobby's to the citizens united ruling. They average citizen's vote doesn't measure up to a lobbyists checkbook.
If they're so strong in their support of Israel at the risk of more of my fellow Soldiers, Friends, and Brothers and Sisters-in- Arms lives, then they (U.S. Politicians) should all be willing to put their lives on the line for Israel.
Who elected these folks, Israel or us citizens? Israel's Interests are not necessarily ours. Have Americans forgotten how to negotiate or are we simply he'll bent on killing everyone?
The situation is dire. As Jim Lobe points out, the lobbyists may be able to score a vote so massive as to override a presidential veto:
The question now is whether the White House can hold nervous Democrats, particularly Majority Leader Harry Reid who controls the calendar for floor votes, in line. As I suggested yesterday, the fact that the co-sponsorship has become so heavily and conspicuously Republican — and is now, thanks to the Foreign Policy Initiative (AKA the Project for the New American Century) so closely associated with neoconservatives and other Iraq war advocates — could make that work easier. That may be one reason why anonymous Hill staffers linked to AIPAC are claiming to CNN and other outlets that the lobby group has rounded up 77 commitments to vote for the bill if it comes to the floor, making it immune to a promised White House veto if Reid lets it come to a vote.
If you need further evidence that many American Jews are becoming alienated from the pro-Israel hard-liners, check this out...
The stakes involved were made manifest by an extraordinary statement to JTA’s Ron Kampeas by the head of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), which yesterday issued a much more ambiguous statement on the pending bill. Rabbi Jack Moline charged that AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee were using “strong-arm tactics, essentially threatening people that if they don’t vote a particular way, that somehow that makes them anti-Israel or means the abandonment of the Jewish community.” The NJDC ordinarily follow AIPAC’s line without question, so for its executive director to make such a charge publicly underlines the degree to which the current fight over the Kirk-Menendez bill could have huge political ramifications, especially for AIPAC, the two parties, and the U.S. Jewish community.
And Lara Friedman correctly warns that undermining "the diplomacy option" with Iran is "not good for the Jews."
For the first time in decades, there is a chance for a diplomatic breakthrough that could resolve the international crisis over Iran's nuclear program. And at this pivotal moment in history, some American Jewish organizations appear bound and determined to prevent such an outcome.
Doubtless there are some who are eager to move past diplomacy to military engagement. They would appear to be joined by some in Israel, including the Israeli Prime Minister and some of his top officials, all of whom apparently had no qualms about pressing American Jews and their leaders to oppose the efforts of the elected government of the United States to reach an interim deal with Iran.
Their efforts today are visible most prominently in the form of a new Iran sanctions bill in the Senate (S. 1881). The Obama administration and group of 10 Senate committee chairs have come out against the bill, but that hasn't stopped AIPAC and a collection of mainly (but not exclusively) other Jewish groups from lobbying energetically in support of the measure (for example, see here, here, and here). Both the timing of this bill's introduction and its substance appear designed to derail the current negotiating effort and prevent any realistic agreement. In promoting such a measure, supporters of the bill are sending a message, intended or not, that they may indeed favor war over a negotiated solution -- not unlike Iran's own hardliners, many of whom appear to favor confrontation over compromise.

How is sending such a message good for U.S. interests? It's not.
At last, it has become permissible to speak in public of U.S. interests. Americans, even Jewish Americans, are finally starting to comprehend that Israel does not come first -- not for the people who live within these borders. If we can make that admission without fear of being called anti-Semitic, there is reason for hope.

Right now, we must defeat S. 1881. The power of the lobbyists and the neocons can be overcome by the power of public protest. "People power" resisted the seemingly irrestible call to make war on Assad; now we must resist the call to make war on Iran.
Comments:
the surest way to kill the bill would be to change its name from 'The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act' to 'The Nuclear Weapon Free Middle East Act'...i don't mind being labled anti-semitic, as i consider the creation of israel to be perhaps the greatest crime/blunder of the 20th century, a parting 'fuck you' from the retiring brits as they reluctantly stepped off the world stage as a principal actor...the only thing semitic about today's israelis is the dead language they've resuscitated and trotted out in modern garb...but like us americans, most israelis are decent albeit brainwashed folks, who happen to be cursed with the most despicable leaders since the axis powers of WW too...a tad ironic that
 
jv, I DO mind being called anti-Semitic, just as I very much minded being called anti-black in 2008 simply because I favored another candidate in the primaries. Your "decent but brainwashed" remark about the average Israeli is probably quite correct, but the same can be said of the people who live in any other country. That raises the question: To what degree do we bear responsibility for the venality of our leaders? Another question: To what degree does the venality of our leadership lead to the corruption of the larger public?

I'm thinking back to the Reagan years, when so many of my fellow citizens indulged in low jingoism and the fetishization of military prowess. A lot of people wondered if the spirit of the 1960s had been completely forgotten. Something similar is obviously taking place within Israeli culture right now. You can sense the harshness, the nastiness, the obdurate world-view -- very similar to what was going on here in (say) 1983.
 

Email Reply from Senator Ben Cardin:
Both Congress and the Administration share a common resolve that the preferred way to get Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program is through diplomacy. But we must be prepared to test Iran's sincerity to comply with these latest efforts to keep them from acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities. I remain deeply concerned about Iran's ability to follow through with these new commitments. Iran's track record gives us good reason to have new and stronger sanctions at the ready, which is why I am a cosponsor of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act. While I understand the Obama Administration is opposed to this legislation, it is consistent with the President's commitments that no new sanctions would go into effect as long as Iran is in compliance. It also reflects the President's public statements that if Iran does not negotiate in good faith, new sanctions will be swiftly implemented.
 
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