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Robert Dreyfuss

Bob Dreyfuss

News of America’s misadventures in foreign policy and defense.

Z.Z. Rice, Appeaser

In case Barack Obama was feeling lonely being called an "appeaser" by the neocons, he has company: the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) is apoplectic over Condoleezza Rice's endorsement of the compromise in Lebanon that brought Hezbollah into a power position in Beirut.

According to JINSA, Rice is an appeaser, too.

Here's what Rice said:

Obviously in any compromise there are compromises. This was an agreement that I think served the interests of the Lebanese people. And since it served the interests of the Lebanese people, it served the interests of the United States. We support the democratically elected government of Lebanon.

And here's what JINSA says about that:

Clearly, as the Bush Administration draws to a close, some of its officials are tired of the hard work of supporting one's friends - so they've gone to trying to appease the enemies of their friends in the hope that at least it will be quiet. Lebanon is being thrown under the bus by a tired America.

The neocons, and some of their militant allies, have called instead for a massive US effort to train and equip the Lebanese armed forces for a showdown with Hezbollah. Clearly, Z.Z. Rice isn't having any of that. Besides, the Lebanese armed forces, whose commander was just elevated to the post of president of Lebanon as part of the compromise that Rice had no choice but to endorse, is itself divided, and President Michel Suleiman has increasingly been leaning in Hezbollah's direction for two years now.

And here is JINSA's kicker:

So, realpolitik is the order of the day. A quiet Lebanon makes for happy neighbors and happy colonial powers. The Iraqis should take a quick and serious lesson from this - get your political house in order before we get tired of you, too, and start looking for compromises with Muqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army.

When Puppets Attack

Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister, used his conversation with Barack Obama this week to give the Democratic candidate a geography lesson. "Iraq is not an island," lectured the pompous Zebari. He had a private conversation with Obama by telephone, then promptly blabbed his side of it to the editors at the Washington Post:

Mr. Zebari, who has served as foreign minister in every Iraqi government since 2003, finds Mr. Obama's proposal worrying. In a meeting with Post editors and reporters Tuesday, he said that after all the pain and sacrifices of the past five years, "we are just turning the corner in Iraq." A precipitous withdrawal, he said, "would create a huge vacuum and undo all the gains and achievements. And the others" -- enemies of the United States -- "would celebrate."

Sounding like a McCain spokesman, Zebari added: ""We have a deadly enemy. When he sees that you commit yourself to a certain timetable, he will use this to increase pressure and attacks, to make it look as though he is forcing you out. We have many actors who would love to take advantage of that opportunity."

Continues the Post, in its lead editorial today:

The foreign minister said "my message" to Mr. Obama "was very clear. . . . Really, we are making progress. I hope any actions you will take will not endanger this progress."

The Post, ever warlike, chortles about Zebari's message, adding: "It will give Mr. Obama an opportunity to refresh his badly outdated plan for Iraq. ... Mr. Obama ought to listen carefully to what [Zebari is] saying." In other words, Obama should listen carefully to what George Bush's (and John McCain's) puppet is telling him to do.

Earlier this month, a majority of the sitting Iraqi parliament delivered a letter to the U.S. Congress demanded precisely what Zebari is fretting about: a timetable for an American withdrawal.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, a sometime Obama adviser, once told me, "The only Iraqis who want us to stay in Iraq are the ones who will have to leave when we leave." Zebari, the separatist Kurd, will be sure to elbow his way to the front of that line if and when the day comes.

Israel's Hat Trick

John McCain says he won't talk to Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas. Barack Obama might talk to Syria, but he's having nothing to do with Hezbollah and Hamas. I guess they know something that the Israeli government doesn't.

Over the past couple weeks, it's become increasingly clear that Israel is simultaneously, but separately, conducting talks with Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas.

The Israel-Syria talks, involving two top aides to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, are sponsored by Turkey. Haaretz, the Israeli daily, reported: "Two days of indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria in Turkey ended Monday, Israeli and Turkish officials said, adding that the atmosphere was positive and the contacts would continue." In India, where he arrived for a five-day visit, President Bashar Assad "said that India could play a 'direct' role in the ongoing talks between Syria and Israel." Talks will resume next month, the Turkish foreign minister said, and according to the New York Times, "The Israeli news media have been rife with reports that the Israeli team will try to persuade the Syrians to have their leaders meet face to face in Paris in mid-July at the conference, organized by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, to establish a Mediterranean Union." For Assad, the stumbling block for a face-to-face meeting is that he wants the United States to broker the deal, and the White House ain't playing. Possibly for that reason, the French are insisting that a direct meeting isn't likely.

Meanwhile, Israel is encouraging talks in Cairo sponsored by the Egyptian intelligence agency to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Reports Ynet:

The Hamas delegation, headed by the organization's deputy politburo chief, Moussa Abu Marzouk, held several meetings with Egyptian intelligence minister, Gen. Omar Suleiman, over the past few days.

This following a similar visit by the head of Israel's Defense Ministry Security-Diplomatic Bureau, Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad.

Hamas' prime minister says that he expects the talks to succeed. Though neither McCain nor Obama will endorse the Egyptian-sponsored talks, the Israeli national security cabinet has backed them. I guess it's a good thing those militant, pro-Israeli Jewish voters in Florida can't vote in Israel.

Meanwhile, it appears that a deal is close for a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hezbollah that could free the two Israeli soldiers captured in 2006, whose seizure sparked the Israeli invasion of Lebanon that summer. The two Israelis, wounded but presumably alive--although the deal could involve the soldiers' remains, if dead--might be traded as early as Friday for captives held by Israel, though it might take longer. The deal is awaiting the approval of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah.

None of this means Middle East peace is breaking out. But perhaps the McCain and Obama campaigns ought to take note: even Hamas and Hezbollah are worth talking to.

Bombing Iran? It's Not So Bad, Really

Patrick Clawson and Michael Eisenstadt, two Iran experts at the pro-Israeli thinktank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, have published a primer for bombing Iran that looks at the costs and consequences. It's called "The Last Resort," but it might have been called "Making the Unthinkable Thinkable."

They make it look easy.

Would Iranians "rally 'round the flag" if Iran is attacked? Maybe, maybe not, they say. "One cannot assume that a preventive strike against Iran's nuclear infrastructure would necessarily prompt a nationalist backlash."

Would Iran strike back militarily? Maybe, maybe not, again. They looked at seven previous attacks against Iran, and conclude that Iran's response has been hot and cold. "Tehran has not always reacted swiftly to foreign attacks to assuage nationalist passions--and it has sometimes not responded at all." One quick hit-and-run attack against all, or nearly all, of Iran's nuclear research and industrial sites is the best way to go, they seem to suggest.

Would Iran close the Gulf to oil shipments? They might try, but we can handle that, the authors suggest. "Although Iran could disrupt the flow of oil from the Gulf, causing at least temporary panic in world oil and financial markets, it could not block the Gulf for long."

Might Iran rev up its allies in Iraq and Lebanon to confront the United States and its allies? Yes, they say. So we'd have to get tough with them in those places, and "reduce the likelihoodof such an eventuality by quietly indicating that, as in 2006, [the Unied States] would support a tough Israeli response to Hizballah rocket attacks [from Lebanon]."

Will America's allies be angry? Probably, but the Europeans will likely sit it out and "the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf would have good reason to keep a low profile during any U.S.-Iranian confrontation."

Clawson and Eisenstadt conclude:

Should the United States opt for preventive action, success would hinge in no small part on its ability to craft a sustainable policy that effectively integrates diplomatic, military, and informational instruments to destroy key nodes in Iran's nuclear infrastructure, forestall or mitigate the effect of Iranian retaliation, and set the conditions for successful poststrike diplomacy or military action.

Worth trying, no? What's the downside?

Khalilzad for President? (No, Not Here!)

Wake me up if this is a nightmare, but suddenly the idea that Zalmay Khalilzad might try to become president of Afghanistan is being taken seriously indeed.

That a fierce American neocon might actually try to install himself as the elected leader of a country occupied by American troops might be laughable--but no. What's next? Will Bill Kristol challenge Nouri al-Maliki to be Iraq's next prime minister? How about Joe Lieberman replacing beleaguered Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert?

That Zal-Khal might run for president in Afghanistan has been rumored around for a while, and the people I've talked to don't know what to make of it. But in today's Washington Post, in Al Kamen's "In the Loop" column, it's treated, well, seriously.

Kamen quotes Richard Holbrooke, the Democratic foreign policy guru, saying a bit jocularly that Zal-Khal's recent talk at the Asia Society provoked backroom gossip that he might actually run. (Khalilzad, by the way, is Sunni Pashtun Afghan by birth.) Kamen goes on to say:

He told Afghanistan's Ariana Television Network in April that "I have said earlier that I'm not a candidate for any position in Afghanistan, but I am at the service of the Afghan people." That huge trial balloon has never stopped orbiting the earth.

And an article Sunday in the Independent, a British newspaper, said that "representatives of Mr. Khalilzad . . . have discreetly sounded out various factions to ascertain his chances." The article, written from Kabul, said that "many Afghan commentators say he would enjoy a high degree of support."

You can read the whole Independent article, titled "Bush's former Iraq ambassador to seek Afghan presidency," here. Quote:

Three meetings have been held with opposition groups in recent months to promote Mr Khalilzad, pictured, as a "unifying" candidate in a country where deep divisions have begun to emerge between the Pashtun communities of the south and the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras of the north.

If you've lost track of Zal-Khal's career, he was George W. Bush's inept envoy to the Iraqi opposition groups before the war in 2003, during which time be worked closely with Ahmed Chalabi, Kurdish separatists, and Shiite religious extremists to create the mess that became Iraq's governing council. His work done, he bumbled off to Afghanistan where he made a mess of that country as the first U.S. ambassador to the post-Taliban regime. Having succeeded in that task, he was promoted to the post of U.S. ambassador to Iraq, where he forced through the divisive and flawed Iraqi constitution that, to this day, guarantees political chaos in that country. Finally, he ended up replacing John Bolton as America's ambassador to the United Nations. A stellar record, indeed.

Obama Iraq Advisers Clash at CNAS

The battle for Barack Obama's mind on the issue of getting out of Iraqunfolded in public yesterday, as two members of his Iraq advisory taskforce presented conflicting versions of what to do about the BushAdministration's nation-wrecking program in that country.

The scene was the second annual meeting of the Center for a New AmericanSecurity, a center-right Democratic think tank whose luminaries includeMadeleine Albright and William Perry, secretaries of state and defenseunder Bill Clinton, and a host of other foreign policy wonks.

The two speakers were Colin Kahl, who chairs the task force and whoworks at CNAS, and Brian Katulis, a member of Obama's task force and athinker-in-residence at the Center for American Progress. Neither Kahlnor Katulis was speaking for Obama, but the stark conflict in theirviews says something important about the differing opinions Obama may begetting from inside his team.

Kahl is one of the authors of CNAS' new report, "Shaping the IraqInheritance," which proposes a policy called "conditional engagement"for Iraq that would leave a large contingent of American forces in Iraqfor several years, and which would make America's presence in Iraqcontingent on political progress in Iraq toward reconciliation among thecountry's ethnic and sectarian groups and parties. Katulis is an authorof CAP's Iraq plan, "Strategic Reset," and other studies that propose towithdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq, except for a small force to protectthe American embassy. Katulis' CAP plan also suggests a halt in the U.S.training of Iraqi government forces, while Kahl and CNAS want tocontinue to train the Iraqi security forces long after U.S. combatforces are withdrawn.

Appearing together on a panel at CNAS yesterday, Kahl and Katulispresented a stark contrast.

Kahl criticized Katulis' plan, implicitly, by putting it in a categoryhe calls "unconditional disengagement." In his paper, Kahl describesthat as a "pledge to unconditionally disengage from Iraq by withdrawingall troops on a fixed, unilateral timetable." His plan, "conditionalengagement," would "negotiate a time horizon for U.S. redeployment as ameans of pushing Iraqi leaders toward accommodation and galvanizingregional efforts to stabilize Iraq." In its reports, CNAS has proposedleaving several tens of thousands of American forces in Iraq. Inyesterday's presentation, Kahl showed a slide that defines the U.S.military mission in Iraq, after combat forces are withdrawn, to include"counter-terrorism, force protection, train, advise and provide criticalenablers for the [Iraqi security forces]." The withdrawal of theseforces is "to be determined, based on conditions."

Katulis, responding to Kahl, said that what CNAS is proposing "soundsvery close to what the Bush Administration is doing," adding that therewas "not a real strong difference" between Kahl's plan and the WhiteHouse's plan.

Also on the panel was General (ret.) Jack Keane, a crusty old militaryman who seemed oblivious to the unfolding catastrophe in Iraq. "We cantalk about winning in Iraq," said Keane. "I am convinced we will win inIraq."

Keane cavalierly dismissed the military importance of the two biggestarmed movements in Iraq that might oppose both the United States andMaliki's regime: the Mahdi Army and the Sons of Iraq.

He said that Muqtada al-Sadr, the rebel cleric whose Mahdi Army is apowerful force in Baghdad and Iraq's south, is weakening. "Sadr has beenmarginalized politically by [Prime Minister] Maliki," he said, eventhough few Iraq experts would be winning to dismiss Sadr as aplayer--especially since Sadr is leading the nationalist opposition tothe Bush Administration's plan to establish a treaty formalizing theU.S. occupation of Iraq this summer.

And Keane pooh-poohed the U.S.-funded Awakening or "Sons of Iraq"movement, which is eighty percent Sunni. "We're not going to bring90,000 of those hoods into the Iraqi security forces," he said. Manyanalysts are lambasting Maliki for refusing to incorporate the Sunni-ledforces into the government army and police, but Keane dismissed thosewho are "wringing their hands about what to do" with the Sons of Iraq."It's not a big deal," he shrugged. To those who say that many of thosemilitiamen would go back into armed opposition to the Maliki governmentif a deal isn't struck, Keane said flatly: "They're not going to go backand organize themselves into insurgent groups."

The Unique Reality of Condi Rice

In case you missed it--or, if you didn't miss it, in case you didn't have the energy to read the entire 9,000 words--Condoleezza Rice's interminable lead article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs is a doozy.

It's an extended fugue on the importance of democracy promotion, whether by hook or crook. "We recognize," she writes, "that democratic state building is now an urgent component of our national interest."

In the piece, Rice concocts something she calls "a uniquely American realism." In it, it's America's job to change the world, and in its own image:

"We have never accepted that we are powerless to change the world. Indeed, we have shown that by marrying American power and American values, we could help friends and allies expand the boundaries of what most thought realistic at the time.

"How to describe this disposition of ours? It is realism, of a sort. But it is more than that--what I have called our uniquely American realism."

Of course, the bastard child of that marriage between "American power" and "American values" is the war in Iraq, which Rice endorses. Some of Rice's gems:

"The democratization of Iraq and the democratization of the Middle East [are] linked. ... As Iraq emerges from its difficulties, the impact of its transformation is being felt in the rest of the region. ... Our long-term partnerships with Afghanistan and Iraq, to which we must remain deeply committed, our new relationships in Central Asia, and our long-standing partnerships in the Persian Gulf provide a solid geostrategic foundation for the generational work ahead of helping to bring about a better, more democratic, and more prosperous Middle East."

I love the euphemism about Iraq's "difficulties." But what she lays out is a "generational" U.S. effort to impose American "geostrategic" power in the Middle East and the Gulf. And, oh yeah, some of that democracy stuff.

The most amazing part of Z.Z. Rice's essay is her take on her own earlier Foreign Affairs piece, from 2000, in which she explicitly renounced nation building. Here is the passage from the 2008 piece:

"In these pages in 2000, I decried the role of the United States, in particular the U.S. military, in nation building. In 2008 it is absolutely clear that we will be involved in nation building for years to come."

That's it. "Fooled ya!" Now, Rice says that America has loaded up on nation building capacities, and that those capabilities must be expanded by the next president. She says Washington has "prepared a new generation of military leaders for stabilization and counterinsurgency missions, of which we will likely face more." She demands a "new kind of partnership between our military and civilian institutions." She calls for "better integration of the United States' institutions of hard power and soft power." And she warns: "Those who follow us must build on this foundation."

So there you go. John McCain or Barack Obama better take notes. Z.Z. Rice says they'll have no choice but to build new U.S. capabilities for global democratization.

Iraqi Officials Oppose US-Iraq Treaty

Ever since President Bush announced last fall that the United States would seek to negotiate a lasting security agreement with Iraq, the Democrats in Washington have insisted that any such accord would be a treaty and, therefore, ought to be submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification.

But it's starting look more and more like the proposed treaty won't ever see the light of day. Why? Because the Iraqis themselves don't want it.

At an extraordinary hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday, members of the Iraqi parliament hand-delivered a letter to members of Congress that rejected the idea of a US-Iraq agreement unless the United States agrees to a specific timetable to get out of Iraq. The letter was signed by a majority of the 270-member parliament, reflecting a broad consensus among Iraqi factions. Said the letter:

"The majority of Iraqi representatives strongly reject any military-security, economic, commercial, agricultural, investment or political agreement with the United States that is not linked to clear mechanisms that obligate the occupying American military forces to fully withdraw from Iraq."

Without a US-Iraq accord, the presence of American troops in Iraq has no legal basis after December 31, 2008. Currently, the US forces in Iraq are there under the authority of a United Nations Security Council resolution that expires on that date. Both the United States and the UN have ruled out renewing that authority for another year.

If Washington and Baghdad fail to work out a treaty that legalizes the occupation, it is conceivable that the Bush administration, in its last few weeks, could go back to the UN, hat in hand, and beg Moscow and Beijing to authorize an extension of the UN authority. But that would be embarassing in the extreme, and both Russia and China would probably extract some major concessions in exchange for not using their veto. That would be seen as a diplomatic fiasco for the United States. Worst case: either Russia or China veto the extension, throwing the occupation of Iraq into legal limbo. In that case, the Iraqi government would have no choice but to demand an immediate and total withdrawal.

To avoid that scenario, it's entirely possible that the Bush Administration, sometime this summer, will force the hapless regime of Prime Minister Maliki to submit to a US diktat on a US-Iraq accord. Even though Maliki is under tremendous pressure from nearly all Iraqi factions not to accept a humiliating, US-imposed treaty, he might decide that he has no choice. But if Maliki signs the accord, and ignores the opposition from parliament, he would instantly lose whatever remaining credibility he has left as an Iraqi leader. That would plunge Iraq into a devastating political crisis. It would probably revive the Sunni-led resistance and inflame the Shia-led, anti-American forces grouped around Muqtada al-Sadr. Violence, and American casualties, would spike on the eve of the US election. Not a pleasant scenario.

If, on the other hand, Maliki submits the treaty -- whose content is still not known -- to the parliament, it's very likely that both Sunni and Shia nationalists and some pro-Iranian parties will overwhelmingly reject it. That will nullify the accord, forcing the United States back to the UN.

None of these scenarios are particularly appetizing for the White House.

Writing in The Independent, Patrick Cockburn provides a glimpse of what's in the draft of the treaty:

"Under the terms of the new treaty, the Americans would retain the long-term use of more than 50 bases in Iraq. American negotiators are also demanding immunity from Iraqi law for US troops and contractors, and a free hand to carry out arrests and conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting the Baghdad government."

Cockburn suggests that at least some of the Iraqi defiance might be for show, and that in the end the Iraqis will sign the accord because they have little choice. But if they do, it could make Iraq's already violent and unstable politics far worse.

In the end, congressional Democrats might never get a chance to vote on a US-Iraq treaty. Which might be a good thing. Because while Iraq's parliament is overwhelmingly opposed to it, America's own pliant parliament -- namely, the US Congress -- will probably approve the damn thing.

Obama Works A Tough Room at AIPAC

Two days after John McCain paraded his tough-guy image in front of 7,000 supporters at the annual meeting of the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Barack Obama delivered his own version of the Israeli national anthem this morning. For Obama, the AIPAC conference seemed like a tough room to work. But, by all indications, he wowed 'em.

He started out by citing "provocative e-mails" circulating in the Jewishcommunity. (He didn't provide details, but people in the AIPAC audiencedid, when I asked: that Obama is captive of Palestinian ideology, thatObama is a secret Muslim, and so on.) "Let me know if you see this guyBarack Obama," said Barack Obama, "because he sounds like a scary guy."

Virtually every speech ever delivered to an AIPAC conference, going back54 years to the first AIPAC conclave, is a litany of pro-Israelishibboleths. Obama didn't disappoint. He learned about the Holocaust from a camp counselor at age 11, he said, and his great-uncle helped to liberate Buchenwald. Check. "As president I will never compromise whenit comes to Israeli security." Check. He advocates strengtheningUS-Israeli military ties, and wants to sign a memorandum ofunderstanding to provide Israel with $30 billion in military aid overthe next ten years to "ensure Israel's qualitative military advantage."Check. No negotiations with Hamas and Hezbollah. Check. And while hewill talk to Iran, it will be "tough and principled diplomacy with theappropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing--if, andonly if--it can advance the interests of the United States." Check. Andjust in case AIPAC thinks that he won't act, Obama added: "I will alwayskeep the threat of military action on the table."

In case anyone missed the point, Obama added: "I will do everything inmy power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." He repeatedthat sentence twice, for emphasis. And for additional emphasis, he saidagain: "Everything."

Before the speech I wandered around, speaking to a couple of dozen AIPACattendees. What I heard was uncertainty, nervousness, anxiety--andalmost none of it was based on Obama's actual views. It was just, youknow, a feeling. "I don't trust him," said Menachem, from Illinois. "Idon't go according to what people say. I am using my intuition." SaidAlan, "We went to lobby him last year, and he seemed, well, I don'tknow. It's his body language." Many AIPAC'ers said Obama would talk toterrorists. Diba, from California, said: "I don't think Obama has takena strong stand for Israel. He is saying all the right things, but Idon't think that he means it."

After the speech, it was a different story. "Did he make the sale? Oh,absolutely!" said Abe. "He addressed the rumors. He spoke from theheart. For me, he settled it," Lisa, from Michigan,said. Said Jay, fromWashington, "Obama had to describe himself for this crowd. And I thinkhe came across well. People were listening very carefully, and I thinkthey believed him." A young man from Los Angeles, still undecidedbetween Obama and McCain, said: "He really made me think. He surprisedme. He made the point that Israel is weaker and less safe after eightyears of the Bush Administration's policies."

That latter point was central to Obama's address at AIPAC, which wasinterrupted numerous times by standing ovations, cheers and thunderousapplause. Obama blasted McCain for his fealty to the "failure" of Bush'sbull-in-a-falafel-shop approach to the Middle East, which, he said, (1)allowed Hamas to take power in the occupied territories, (2) allowedHezbollah to make major gains in Lebanon, (3) strengthened Iran's powerin the region, (4) turned Iraq into an unstable state, and (5) isolatedthe United States from its friends and allies in the region, especiallyamong the Arabs. By proposing a "responsible, phased redeployment of ourtroops from Iraq" ("we will get out as carefully as we were carelessgetting in") and by offering incentives to Iran if they abandon theirnuclear program, Obama said that he will make Israel safer and moresecure.

If you were listening for Obama to say anything about the suffering ofthe Palestinian people, well, that will be in a different speech.

Obama, of course, pledged that he will work for a two-state solution tothe Israel-Palestine speech. In a slap at the White House, whichlaunched a half-hearted, way-too-late peace effort at the end of 2007,Obama added: "And I won't wait until the waning days of my presidency."

The meeting at AIPAC, largest in its history, is a grand affair, fillinga cavernous hall at the Washington Convention Center, with fully a dozenwall-sized monitors set up to display speakers' images. Everyone who'sanyone spoke: Obama, McCain, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner,Condi Rice, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and--hmm, someone else, someoneelse--oh, right: Hillary Clinton. Clinton rushed through her speech, tromping on her own applause lines, as if she couldn't wait to get out of there. (No, she didn't concede this morning, either. But she did say:"I know Senator Obama understands what it is at stake here. ... I knowthat Senator Obama will be a good friend to Israel.")

McCain, speaking on Monday morning, didn't break any new ground. Heattacked Obama for not supporting the Senate resolution introduced bySenators Joe Lieberman and Jon Kyl that would have designated theIranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. "Overthree-quarters of the Senate supported this obvious step, but notSenator Obama," said McCain. He criticized Obama for wanting to trysomething as radical as diplomacy. And of course he warned that therewould be a "catastrophe, ... all-out civil war, genocide, and a failedstate in the heart of the Middle East" if America does what Obamaproposes, and leaves Iraq. That, he said, would embolden Iran.

Obama wasn't letting McCain get away with that one. "He [McCain]criticizes my willingness to use strong diplomacy, but offers only analternate reality--one where the war in Iraq has somehow put Iran onits heels," said Obama. "The truth is the opposite. Iran hasstrengthened its position."

An AIPAC meeting, of course, is hardly the place to look for enlightenedspeech about the Middle East, and there was precious little of it to befound anywhere on the speakers' rostrum this week. But Barack Obama, whoentered the lion's den an unknown quantity, won more than a fewconverts.

For me, the highlight of Obama's speech came at the end, when he spokemovingly, and passionately, about the alliance of Jews andAfrican-Americans who led the civil rights movement in the '50s and'60s.

In the great social movements in our country's history,Jewish and African Americans have stood shoulder to shoulder. They tookbuses down south together. They marched together. They bled together.And Jewish Americans like Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner werewilling to die alongside a black man--James Chaney--on behalf offreedom and equality.

Their legacy is our inheritance. We must not allow the relationshipbetween Jews and African Americans to suffer. This is a bond that mustbe strengthened. Together, we can rededicate ourselves to end prejudiceand combat hatred in all of its forms. Together, we can renew ourcommitment to justice. Together, we can join our voices together, and indoing so make even the mightiest of walls fall down.

He said that in a rising crescendo, during a standing ovation, that wenton and on. It was a powerful moment.

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