Recent events reported Wednesday by Haaretz relating to a possible Israeli attack on Iran shed light on a key question that affects how we organize in the United States against our government's support of Israel.
Is the United States' pro-Israel foreign policy explained by the theory that Israel, through the Israel Lobby, has hijacked the American government? Is the dog, i.e. the American ruling plutocracy, being wagged by the tail, i.e. Israel? Or does the American ruling plutocracy have immoral but perfectly rational reasons of its own for supporting Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians?
James Petras is one of the leading advocates of the "tail wags dog" theory. He elaborated on that theory in his article, "Israel's War with Iran," written January 23, 2006. Petras said that any attack on Iran will benefit only Israel:
"Conclusion: The only possible beneficiary of a US or Israeli military attack on Iran or economic sanctions will be Israel: it will seem to eliminate a military adversary in the Middle East, and consolidate its military supremacy in the Middle East."
And an Israeli attack on Iran, Petras asserted way back in January of 2006, was "imminent":
"Never has an imminent war been so loudly and publicly advertised as Israel’s forthcoming military attack against Iran."
Adding to the likelihood of an Israeli attack on Iran "in the immediate future," according to Petras, was the fact that it was the number one priority of the Israel Lobby in the United States:
"Israel’s political and military leadership have repeatedly and openly declared their preparation to militarily attack Iran in the immediate future. Their influential supporters in the US have made Israel’s war policy the number one priority in their efforts to secure Presidential and Congressional backing."
In his concluding paragraph Petras applied the logic of tail-wags-dog to assert that "we are doomed" to a major confrontation with Iran because "there is no political leadership to oppose the pro-Israel war lobby":
"The problem is there is no political leadership to oppose the pro-Israel war lobby within congress or even in civil society. There are few if any influential organized lobbies challenging the pro-war Israel lobby either from the perspective of working for coexistence in the Middle East or even in defending US national interests when they diverge from Israel. Although numerous former diplomats, generals, intelligence officials, Reformed Jews, retired National Security advisers and State Department professionals have publicly denounced the Iran war agenda and even criticized the Israel First lobbies, their newspaper ads and media interviews have not been backed by any national political organization that can compete for influence in the White House and Congress. As we draw closer to a major confrontation with Iran and Israeli officials set short term deadlines for igniting a Middle East conflagration, it seems that we are doomed to learn from future catastrophic losses that Americans must organize to defeat political lobbies based on overseas allegiances."
And yet, here it is in August of 2008, with Bush and Cheney and the same old gang still in the White House, and not only has there been no attack on Iran, but according to Haaretz (August 13, 2008), the Bush administration is using strong-arm methods to prevent Israel from attacking Iran. The Haaretz headline reads:
Haaretz reports that:
U.S. puts brakes on Israeli plan for attack on Iran nuclear facilities
"The American administration has rejected an Israeli request for military equipment and support that would improve Israel's ability to attack Iran's nuclear facilities."
and Haaretz also reports that the Bush administration cited "American interests" as its reason for nixing Israel's attack on Iran, something that does not fit into the tail-wags-dog theory that the U.S. obeys Israel even when it conflicts with "U.S. national interest" (a bogus concept, by the way) to do so:
"The Americans viewed the request, which was transmitted (and rejected) at the highest level, as a sign that Israel is in the advanced stages of preparations to attack Iran. They therefore warned Israel against attacking, saying such a strike would undermine American interests."
Israel and/or the U.S. May Indeed Attack Iran, But Not Because the Tail Wags the Dog
The American ruling plutocracy supports Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians because it foments a non-class war (Jew versus non-Jew) in the Middle East that helps both Jewish and non-Jewish elites control "their own" people and prevent a genuine democratic revolution from overthrowing the ruling elites in the region. Keeping elites in power and ordinary people out of power everywhere in the world is the American plutocracy's number one strategic goal (they call it "spreading democracy"), and Israel's ("the only democracy in the Middle East") ethnic cleansing project serves it.
Orwellian wars of social control, like World War I, World War II, the Cold War and the War on Terror, are elite strategies, and it is quite possible that the United States and/or Israel will indeed attack Iran to further such a strategy; it would be one way to keep the War on Terror going. But if such an attack occurs, it will not be necessary to rely on the inherently far-fetched theory of tail-wags-dog to understand why. The dog has reasons of its own for its warmongering and support of ethnic cleansing.
Let us not provide the dog--the American ruling plutocracy--with a fig-leaf ("Israel made me do it") to hide behind. The Israel Lobby is an instrument of the American plutocracy. The Lobby doesn't control the plutocracy; the plutocracy controls the Lobby, using it to keep its hired hands, the politicians, in line and to push pro-Israel lies on the public. Our task is to defeat the American plutocracy to win real democracy. The last thing we need is to let the plutocracy use the Israel Lobby as a bullfighter uses a red cape--to deflect the bull's charges away from doing real bodily harm.
The point we need to make to the American public about the Israel Lobby is not that it has taken control of our government. The government was never "ours" to begin with. From 1776 it has been "theirs"--the upper class's. Wealthy property owners are the only ones that were represented by George Washington, and it's been that way ever since. The point we need to make is that the Israel Lobby is morally and factually wrong. It defends ethnic cleansing. It spreads the racist lie that non-Jews are inherently anti-Semitic and therefore Jews need a purely Jewish state to be safe, even if it requires violent ethnic cleansing to make it "secure."
The shame is that condemning the Israel Lobby for having supposedly hijacked the American government detracts from the important message--that the Lobby is morally and factually wrong. The American ruling elite is quite appreciative of this. They no doubt love it when people like Petras and Walt and Mearsheimer shift attention away from Israel's ethnic cleansing to focus on the bogus question of whether U.S. support for Israel is in the "national interest." They must love it when Petras, insisting that "In fact the US-Middle East wars prejudice the oil interests in several strategic senses," argues that true blue proud-to-be-American Big Oil is our friend in the fight against the Lobby. They must love it when Petras directs our anger away from the dog and towards the tail, or as Petras puts it, "political lobbies based on overseas allegiances."
But Big Oil is not our friend, and the American public, if not Petras, understands that pretty well. While it is excluded from mainstream public discourse, more and more Americans are coming to understand that the real conflict in society has nothing to do with the bogus concept of "national interest." The real conflict, the one that affects people everyday in every aspect of their lives, is the class conflict--the conflict between working class values and aspirations for a world based on real democracy, equality and solidarity versus the elite values of inequality and top-down control and pitting people against each other. Americans are starting to see that people who speak of "national interest" are not to be trusted. They are right. And if we tell them that the problem with the Israel Lobby is that it goes against our "national interest," then they will be right not to trust us. Is that what we want?
The last thing we should be doing is helping the American plutocracy to control Americans by confusing them with a debate ("Supporting Israel: is it or is it not in our national interest?") in which both sides embrace the phony "national interest" mythology that all Americans, rich and poor, share a common interest that our politicians try to pursue. Instead we need to reach out to the public by championing their class values. Otherwise, we will never win the class war, and the likes of Bush and Cheney and Obama and McCain will continue to carry out war crimes in the name of "spreading democracy" and defending "the only democracy in the Middle east."