DAMASCUS, Syria, March 29 (UPI) -- After a ban of three years, Helen Thomas, the American journalist of Arab origin, was called on at President Bush's latest press conference. There, Ms. Thomas asked him the most embarrassing of all questions: "Your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis ... every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true ... why did you really want to go to war?" Ms. Thomas duly forewarned Bush that he was going to be sorry for giving her the chance to ask.
Bush tried to evade a direct answer, and Ms. Thomas had to interrupt him three times to get one. The American president probably does not realize that the question posed by one of the most honorable journalists of our time, is also asked by millions of people worldwide. What is the real reason behind the American war on Iraq? All the official justifications, from weapons of mass destruction to involvement in the 9/11 attacks turned out to be misleading. Still, the United States went to war.
John Mearsheimer from Chicago University and Stephen Walt from Harvard have recently published a study entitled: "Israel lobby and the American foreign policy." In this study, they researched the dimensions of American-Israeli relations. (The study could be found on www.irb.co.uk). The authors argue that the U.S. special relationship with Israel "jeopardized not only the U.S. security but that of much of the rest of the world." And that U.S. policy towards Israel in the Middle East "derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the 'Israel Lobby.'"
The study lists a number of shocking facts. It starts with the huge American annual financial assistance to Israel since 1976; about $3 billion each year, which is not subject to any conditions. Israel can use the money to its liking, whether to build settlements or even develop weapons of mass destruction. Since 1982, the United States "vetoed 32 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel," which is more than "the total number of vetoes cast by all the other Security Council members."
Regarding the war on Iraq, the study concludes that "The Israeli government and pro-Israel groups in the United States have worked together to shape the administration's policy towards Iraq, Syria and Iran, as well as its grand scheme for reordering the Middle East." The study adds that "Pressure from Israel and the lobby was not the only factor behind the decision to attack Iraq in March 2003, but it was critical. 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." According to Philip Zelikow, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, and now a counselor to Condoleezza Rice, "the 'real threat' from Iraq was not a threat to the United States. The 'unstated threat' was the 'threat against Israel.'"
On 16 August 2002, 11 days before Dick Cheney started the campaign for war on Iraq, the Washington Post published that "Israel is urging U.S. officials not to delay a military strike against Iraq's Saddam Hussein." Meanwhile, and according to Sharon, "strategic co-ordination between Israel and the U.S. had reached 'unprecedented dimensions, and Israeli intelligence officials had given Washington a variety of alarming reports about Iraq's WMD programs."
In a New York Times op-ed, Ehud Barak warned that "the greatest risk now lies in inaction." While Binyamin Netanyahu, in the Wall Street Journal, wrote an article entitled: "The Case for Toppling Saddam." He said: "Today nothing less than dismantling his regime will do ... I believe I speak for the overwhelming majority of Israelis in supporting a pre-emptive strike against Saddam's regime." Ha'aretz reported in February 2003, "The military and political leadership yearns for war in Iraq. The authors then observe that "In fact, Israelis were so gung-ho that their allies in America told them to damp down their rhetoric, or it would look as if the war would be fought on Israel's behalf."
What we witness today in Iraq from sectarian strife, systematic terrorism and murder of scientists and scholars to rubbery of museums and historic treasures, show, beyond doubt, that the ultimate target of the war is the Iraq identity. One episode in a scheme that aims at transforming Arab states into conflicting dismembered entities, so that Israel remains the strongest state in the region. What is happening in Palestine, and what is being planned against Syria and Lebanon completes the scheme.
It is quite distressing that such studies hardly get mentioned in Arabic newspapers, even though the daily facts of reality in our region confirm their findings. This is at a time when honest American scholars stand to tell the truth, risking probably their own careers. It is time for Arab scholars to participate in this effort, and give truth a voice in the "international community." The United States and Israel are not one front yet, and we still can do something to redress the unjust American bias towards Israel.
Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban is Syrian minister of Expatriates.
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