Capuano and Kucinich come clean about the Lobby
By John V. Walsh
“AIPAC!” was the forceful one-word answer of Congressman Michael Capuano when we asked him, “Why was the Iran clause forbidding war on Iran without Congressional approval taken out of the recent supplemental for the Iraq war funding?” I nearly fell out of my chair at his reply – not because this was news but because of who had just said it. Capuano is a close ally of Nancy Pelosi, her fixer and enforcer. That was last Friday morning when a small delegation from Cambridge and Somerville, MA, were visiting the Congressman, known for his bluntness, as part of the nationwide UFPJ (United For Peace and Justice) home lobbying effort during the Congressional recess.
Later that day, Dennis Kucinich made an appearance at Harvard, where he was asked the same question, the reason for removing the Iran provision. “AIPAC,” I volunteered out loud. Kucinich looked my way and said, “Exactly.” Again my chair almost failed to contain me.A few weeks earlier we had gone to the offices of Senators Kennedy and then Kerry to discuss the war. (My intention was to call their attention to www.FilibusterForPeace.org to which the Kennedy aide was sympathetic and the Kerry aide predictably hostile.) I raised the question of AIPAC directly with Kerry’s aide, inquiring about its hawkish influence on Kerry and other Senators. Suddenly the aide was quite engaged. Leaning forward, he said: “That will never be discussed publicly. That will never be discussed publicly.” Clearly even Kerry’s office is unhappy with the pressure that comes from AIPAC.
It is widely acknowledged that the reps and senators are ticked at AIPAC, and their hostility seems to be growing these days. With upwards of 60% of their campaign contributions coming directly or indirectly from the Israel Lobby, the Democratic congressmen are not free to respond to their antiwar base. This opens them to an antiwar electoral challenge on the Left or Right from forces not subservient to AIPAC. And that could cost them their next election, a little thing which has them very worked up. Capuano’s cry of “AIPAC” was no simple outburst of candor but a cri de coeur for his career.
So here we have even Congressmen and Senator’s aides complaining publicly about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC is being outed all over the mainstream media, largely thanks to the door opening work of Mearsheimer and Walt. AIPAC is skewered routinely by Justin Raimondo on Antiwar.com and by Alex Cockburn and many others here on CounterPunch. But there remains no anti-AIPAC campaign within the mainstream antiwar organizations, like UFPJ or Peace Action. (Even one supposed Congressional ally of the peace movement was announced as a celebrity guest at the recent colossal AIPAC meeting in Washington, where half the Congress shows up and Dick Cheney is a regular speaker. What gives?)
I have been told by leaders of the peace movement that AIPAC is a distraction from the main thrust of the antiwar movement. And so we should not engage it; AIPAC is to be immune. But with all due respect to the sentiments of that leadership, immunity for AIPAC is a prescription for disaster. To use a military analogy, which I do not especially like, suppose that we were trying to take a hill in Germany in 1944. And suppose we said that we would not attack one pillbox, which kept devastating our forces. Leave just that one pillbox alone! The result would be devastating; we would be cut down with every succeeding attempt at advance. So it is with AIPAC which campaigns relentlessly for war on Iraq, war on Iran, war on Syria, war on Lebanon and the slow genocide of the Palestinian people. AIPAC constantly puts the peace movement on the defensive while it is free to be on the offensive all the time.
AIPAC is not just an issue for Jewish Americans or the Jewish wing of the peace movement like Jewish Voice for Peace; it is a major force, although not the only one, driving the U.S. to wars in the Middle East. AIPAC is no less a force for war than is the Republican National Committee. In fact it is worse, because it sinks its teeth into the foreign policy establishment of both parties, perhaps the Dems more so than the Republicans. If the peace movement is to be worth its salt, then it must take action against AIPAC. (It is marathon season here in Boston and my friend, Israeli expatriate Joshua Ashenberg, tells me that the foregoing thought harbors a logical error. As he says: “A ‘movement’ that does not work against AIPAC is NOT a peace movement by definition. It will not help if I call myself a marathon runner, while I never ran a marathon.”)