Guest post by Andrew Murphy
Filmmaker Oliver Stone suggested on American cable TV that Israel is essentially the 51st state and that AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee) wags the Congressional dog. Host Bill Maher to his credit did his best to counter Stone’s outrageous claims. Its quite interesting how of all the lobbying groups in the USA, AIPAC is the one that gets singled out by many on the anti-Israel Left and Right.
Ever since Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt published their thesis in the London Review of Books and later a bestselling book, the argument continues to pick up steam, even in mainstream sources, that there is something unique and powerful about the Israeli lobby in Washington DC.
While it certainly is true that AIPAC is a powerful lobby in DC, is it really more powerful then say, other lobbying pressure groups such as the oil industry, National Rifle Association, defense contractors, health insurance companies, etc? (Contrary to what many think, much of the health care reform passed by Congress contained many ideas that AHIP, the insurance lobby, wanted.)
Those are just the domestic pressure groups. Those who follow American politics know very well there are two other lobbying groups that command enormous power and sway over politicians– namely the Turkish and Cuban lobbies.
As I pointed out earlier this year, the Turkish lobby– via defense contractors who do business with Turkish government– has used its influence to prevent official US acknowledgment of the Turkish genocide of the Armenian people in 1915. The Turkish Lobby has been influential in American politics since the 1930s, when it was able to pressure the Roosevelt Administration to use their influence on MGM studios to stop the movie production of the novel Forty Days of Musa Dagh, about the Armenian genocide.
Ask any politician seeking statewide or national office what is the third rail issue in the state of Florida, and off the record the honest ones will tell you it is being perceived as being soft on Cuba. Calling for ending the USA embargo against Cuba can be political hemlock for any Republican or Democrat, even though the Cold War has been over for 20 years and the US trades with nearly all of our former communist adversaries– even Vietnam, a country where over 58,000 American servicemen lost their lives just three decades ago.
But to calm Mr. Stone’s fears, one can simply point to two issues that prove AIPAC’s power over the US government is actually not as overwhelming as it is made out to be.
First, arms sales to Saudi Arabia. One of the primary legislative goals of AIPAC is for the US Government to stop selling military hardware to the Saudi theocracy. Yet year after year, president after president, they fail to achieve this. They didn’t stop Jimmy Carter in 1978 from selling F-15 fighter jets nor could they get Ronald Reagan or Congress’s ear when the Reagan Administration sold AWACS aircraft and other weapons to the Saudis. And even when it came to money for Israel itself, it was no match for the George H Bush Administration which opposed a $10 billion dollar loan guarantee to Israel in 1991.
During the NATO and USA intervention in the Kosovo conflict in 1999, some of strongest advocates for helping the Kosovo Muslims in the region were the neoconservatives. Yet the Israeli Right (which supposedly issues orders to AIPAC and neoconservatives, so goes some of the propaganda), including Ariel Sharon, opposed any support for the Kosovo Muslims and the NATO bombing of Serbia.
There is nothing wrong in questioning and debating the influence lobbying groups may have in a political process but let’s have some perspective and spare us, Mr. Stone, the hyperbole implying somehow AIPAC and Israel have turned our government into their own personal sockpuppet.