There is considerable chatter about who will win in some of the hotly contested congressional races around the country, but one thing is certain: whoever triumphs will soon be receiving a nice all expenses paid luxury trip to Israel to learn all about Benjamin Netanyahu’s views regarding what more Washington can do to support him and his government. The “educational seminars” are organized by the Israel Lobby, more specifically by a tax exempt entity referred to as the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), which is a part of the hardline American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Participation in the journey by all freshman congressman is not mandatory but is advisable if one wants to stay on the right side of the Lobby. In August 2015 the class of 2014 only had three abstentions out of 53 new congressmen when it traveled to Israel along partisan lines with a Democratic group followed shortly thereafter by a GOP contingent.
These orientation trips are in addition to the frequent taxpayer funded visits made by congressmen to update themselves on Israel’s expanding list of “needs.” One such recent excursion involved Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who enthused that “in a region consumed by terrorism and oppression, Israel stands out as a shining beacon of hope and freedom.” Congressman David Rouzer, also from North Carolina, observed that “Any attack on Israel of any kind is an attack on the American people. It was an honor for us to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
My own congressman, Barbara Comstock, a Republican representing the 10th District of Virginia, made the freshman trip last year. Comstock is a supremely ambitious lawmaker who has proven herself to be a dedicated GOP apparatchik. Recently she supported the presidential candidacy of Senator Marco Rubio, the ultimate Republican establishment candidate, who has appropriately been described as an “empty suit” when it comes to any understanding of the serious issues confronting the American people.
Comstock has been involved in a number of unsavory enterprises as she climbed the GOP ladder. She once headed the defense fund for Scooter Libby, the White House aide who was eventually convicted of perjury and other crimes after outing deep cover CIA Officer Valerie Plame, a felony offense. Outing Plame not only destroyed the woman’s career, it also set back CIA efforts to find and neutralize nuclear proliferators, which is what Valerie was working on.
I do not want to appear to be picking on Comstock but she and I have had a bit of a go around on her Israel trip and regarding her statements upon returning to Virginia, which I would like to share. And I must note that she is far from unique. She in reality differs but little from the numerous other congressmen on the make who are short on principles and compassion and long on their commitment to remain on the good side of Israel. And it is completely bipartisan. If Comstock is replaced by Democratic congressional candidate LuAnn Bennett this November I am sure Bennett will make the AIPAC sponsored trip in 2017 and will grovel just as embarrassingly on the Israel-Palestine issue. After all, that is what politicians do.
Comstock commented on her travel experience in a local newspaper, the Loudoun Times-Mirror, saying that she had met with Israeli government leaders who unanimously opposed the then impending nuclear deal with Iran. She agreed, coming to the conclusion that Iran is “very much a threat, not just to Israel and the entire region, but to the United States.” She repeated the Israeli view that the agreement would make it likely that Iran would develop a nuclear weapon in 12 or 13 years. She also opposed weakening sanctions as an inducement for Iran to drop its program, observing that “I think if anything we should increase the sanctions.”
Exercising my First Amendment rights, I then wrote a letter to the newspaper:
“So Congresswoman Barbara Comstock has traveled to Israel on a trip paid for by the Israel Lobby. While there Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns her about the Iranians being a threat to America (and, of course, Israel) so she believes him rather than her own president and returns to regurgitate the propaganda she has been fed. It never occurs to Ms. Comstock that Netanyahu might be feeding her and the other congressmen a lot of rubbish. Neither Israel’s own generals nor the American ones at the Pentagon actually consider Iran to be a serious threat, no matter what it tries to do. Neither the CIA nor the Mossad believe that Iran has ever sought to build a nuclear weapon.
“Perhaps she should do her homework on this one. The Iran deal significantly reduces that country’s capability to produce a nuclear weapon and its research labs will be subject to intrusive inspection. Sure no deal is perfect, but there are plenty of safeguards built in and if Iran fails to keep its end of the bargain sanctions will be re-imposed. It is an agreement that is good for all parties involved, including for Israel.
“Ms. Comstock might also want to revisit her oath of office which pledges her to defend the Constitution of the United States, not to become an accomplice in what a foreign nation wants us to do. Our First President George Washington wisely urged Americans to maintain friendly relations with everyone, to avoid a ‘passionate attachment’ to another nation which just might be creating ‘the illusion of a common interest … where no common interest exists.’”
The newspaper would not print my letter, so I wrote directly to the congresswoman beginning with “The media is reporting that you have traveled to Israel on a trip paid for by the Israel Lobby” and then adding the points I had made in the newspaper letter.
Comstock responded, and I am quoting verbatim her first three paragraphs:
“The Obama Administration vowed this deal would dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons program; provide anytime, anywhere inspections; and cut back Iran’s ballistic missile program. In March of this year, I and 367 of my colleagues signed a bipartisan letter to the president outlining what must be accomplished in the negotiations in order for Congress to support the deal, and that letter stated that the final accord must provide Iran with ‘no pathway to a bomb.’ None of the administration’s promises were kept and none of their goals were met. Therefore, this agreement is fatally flawed and I oppose this deal.
“The Obama Administration has committed to providing Iran sanctions relief from the U.S. in return for temporary, inadequate constraints on Iran’s nuclear program. It will permit Iran to launch an industrial-scale nuclear program after a little more than 10 years; to continue to block international inspectors from its secret nuclear facilities; to hide past work on its nuclear weapons program; and will allow Iran to essentially emerge from the deal as a legitimate player on the global scene with its past record of violence, oppression, and terrorism wiped clean.
“Rewarding the Iranian Regime with billions of dollars in sanctions relief and swiftly lifting the arms embargo provides Iran—a country that exports terrorism—with the means to spread violence around the region. Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, and this deal only emboldens the Ayatollah and the Mullahs to continue spreading instability throughout the world.”
The response is, of course, pretty much a canned argument incorporating “facts” that may have been in part drafted by AIPAC and which is completely in line with Israel Lobby and Israeli government thinking. It includes several errors, most particularly on the efficacy of the inspections routine, is confused about the source of the money due to Tehran, and considerably overstates Iran’s role as a state sponsor of terrorism. It also errs in crediting Iran with “spreading instability around the world.” That honor belongs to the United States, ably assisted by Israel.
More to the point, the response ignores the thrust of my letter, which criticizes American legislators going off on paid trips to foreign countries and then coming back home to confuse those government’s interests with those of the United States. Making a trip where you are propagandized by one side and never speaking to representatives of those who are being belittled is a poor way to come up with a policy. Iran and the Palestinians do have legitimate points of view, believe it or not, and one has to wonder how many Arabs or even dissident Israelis Comstock spoke to when she was in Israel.
Contrary to Comstock’s response, even if Tehran’s government might not be very nice it does not in any way threaten the United States and is in fact directly fighting groups like ISIS. We should be working with Iran where we share interests, not against it. The nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 countries has been a success, with the inspection routine working, according to UN inspectors. If there is a fundamental problem in the Middle East it is not Iran but rather the unseemly relationship between the U.S. and Israel, which has unbalanced the region and gravely damaged genuine American interests in an important part of the world.
To appreciate the true impact of the AIEF funded trips to Israel multiply Comstock by fifty and repeat every year to make sure that everyone in congress has been subjected to the propaganda. I would bet that all Comstock’s 49 colleagues who also made the sponsored trip last year came back full of good things to say about Netanyahu and his government. One does not expect congressmen to do very much in return for their generous salaries and perks but there is something seriously wrong when they go around the world and uncritically accept what they are hearing from foreign liars and scoundrels who want the United States to do the heavy lifting after they generate regional crises that are beyond their capability to control. Unfortunately, whoever is elected, the pilgrimages to worship at the feet of Benjamin Netanyahu will continue, bringing to mind Patrick Buchanan’s apt description of a shameless and corrupted congress as “Israeli occupied territory.” Indeed.