April 16, 2007 - It is an old song. Some people said we fought the Nazis just to save the Jews. Today many accuse Israel of being the reason for the war in Iraq.
The charge that Zionists are responsible for this war is not just a diversion of internet oddballs. It has found expression in some well-known publications, such as the Nation here in the U.S. and the Guardian in the U.K. (though nothing the Guardian publishes about Israel surprises me). It has even been heard in the halls of Congress.
At a meeting of anti-war Democrats in 2005, Congressman James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) questioned whether the real reason for the Iraq war was to eliminate one of Israel's enemies. Ray McGovern, a former intelligence analyst, responded that the reasons for the Iraq war were oil, Israel, and military bases, so that "the United States and Israel could dominate that part of the world." He accused Bush of being a puppet of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Moran thanked McGovern for his answer.
Most recently the charge that Israel pressured America to invade Iraq is recorded in the Mearsheimer/Walt report on the supposed influence of the "Israel Lobby" on U.S. foreign policy:
Pressure from Israel and the Lobby was not the only factor behind the U.S. decision to attack Iraq in March 2003, but it was a critical element. Some Americans believe that this was a "war for oil," but there is hardly any direct evidence to support this claim. Instead, the war was motivated in good part by a desire to make Israel more secure.
But was there really pressure from Israel to start the Iraq war? It turns out the assertion that Sharon pushed for the war in Iraq is a complete and utter falsehood.
Yossi Alpher, former senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, reports the following:
Sometime prior to March 2003, Sharon told Bush privately in no uncertain terms what he thought about the Iraq plan. Sharon’s words - revealed here for the first time - constituted a friendly but pointed warning to Bush. Sharon acknowledged that Saddam Hussein was an "acute threat" to the Middle East and that he believed Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. Yet according to one knowledgeable source, Sharon nevertheless advised Bush not to occupy Iraq.
Alpher reports that while Sharon would not try to "push one way or another," he felt the plan to invade Iraq was ill-advised, and that Bush certainly should not try to impose democracy on that country. Alpher continues:
Be sure, Sharon added, not to go into Iraq without a viable exit strategy. And ready a counter-insurgency strategy if you expect to rule Iraq, which will eventually have to be partitioned into its component parts. Finally, Sharon told Bush, please remember that you will conquer, occupy and leave, but we have to remain in this part of the world. Israel, he reminded the American president, does not wish to see its vital interests hurt by regional radicalization and the spillover of violence beyond Iraq’s borders.
Far from applying pressure on the U.S. to invade, Sharon discouraged it. And his fears became realized. Israel has not benefited from this war. The war's main beneficiary is Iran, whose power has become greatly enhanced now that a major rival has been eliminated. While this win for Iran works counter to U.S. interests, it may end up posing a mortal threat to Israel. Israel had no interest in this war and Sharon knew it.
The Iraq war was not a Zionist plot. In hindsight it seems a complete disaster, perhaps the greatest blunder in the history of American foreign policy. I did not actively push for the war. I did, however, criticize the case against it. Based on what was known at the time, I believe my criticisms were justified. But I was still wrong. So were many others, who drew their conclusions from faulty intelligence and incomplete information. It turns out Sharon was smarter than all of us. And that the greatest loser in the Iraq war may very well be Israel.
Alpher, Yossi. "Sharon Warned Bush." Jewish Daily Forward, January 12, 2007.
Isseroff, Ami. "The Jews Started the War - Once Again." Zionism-Israel.com, June 26, 2005.
Mearsheimer, John J. and Walt, Stephen M. "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy." March 2006.
Milbank, Dana. "Democrats Play House To Rally Against the War." Washington Post, June 17, 2005.
Peace with Realism