The Republicans have opened a new front against President Barack Obama.
Our “naive” president, Mitt Romney said on Nov. 7, “is weakening our military, distancing ourselves from allies, and being divisive and demeaning toward our friends.”
By “friends,” Romney clearly meant Israel, especially as he was keynoting the inaugural conference of the Israeli-American Council, an expansive gathering of Israeli expatriates aiming to mobilize as a “strategic asset” for Israel in America, all hosted by two hawkish pro-Israel moguls Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban.
Romney targeted a letter his President wrote to Iranian leader Ali Khamenei: “That the president would write a letter of this nature, in effect legitimizing a nation and a leadership that is violating international norms and is threatening the world, is so far beyond the pale, I was stunned. I was speechless.”
Mr. Romney: I’m stunned, I’m speechless – that you would target our President for trying to settle critical conflict through negotiation is unacceptable — and unpatriotic.
The letter that Romney targeted was written by his Commander-in-Chief in furtherance of America’s interest in finding a diplomatic breakthrough for the Iran-P5+1 talks before the Nov. 24 deadline – one that would further diminish the risk of Iran becoming a military nuclear power, enabling Iran to sustain its civilian nuclear capability, and hoping for co-operation with Iran in confronting a common enemy – ISIS.
Romney didn’t mention that America’s reckless invasion of Iraq empowered Iran as the major Persian Gulf hegemonic power. Romney didn’t mention that post-9/11 America coordinated with Iran both against the Taliban and then while trying to introduce a new Afghan constitution. He didn’t mention that there’s no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program (or ambitions) or that Iran has a legitimate right to civilian nuclear power. He didn’t mention that the ISIS we need Iran’s help with was born on the Iraqi sands bloodied by the needless sacrifice of Iraqis and Americans fighting Bush’s and Cheney’s war.
Most importantly Romney seemed unconcerned whether an Iran deal would be good for America – or for Middle East peace. He seemed unconcerned that many in Israel’s own strategic and intelligence services oppose a military strike against Iran. He seemed unconcerned that a verifiable detente with Iran would make the world safer for America.
As I read Romney’s comments I witnessed an American, who in a 2012 presidential campaign repeatedly professed himself a patriot and believer in American Exceptionalism, today genuflecting before mammon.
I’m stunned, I’m speechless.
An American elder statesman is bending low in agreement with moguls, one of whom, Adelson, said in 2010, “I am not Israeli. The uniform that I wore in the military, unfortunately, was not an Israeli uniform. It was an American uniform, although my wife was in the IDF and one of my daughters was in the IDF. … Our two little boys, one of whom will be bar mitzvahed tomorrow, hopefully he’ll come back — his hobby is shooting — and he’ll come back and be a sniper for the IDF.”
Last week in Beverly Hills, Haim Saban hosted a benefit for that same IDF that raised $33 million for Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.
Aside from wondering how far $33 million would go helping American enlisted forces who struggle to make ends meet I wonder how Americans should feel helping foreign armies with gifts that have 501(C)(3) tax benefits?
Romney said that the U.S. should treat Iran as it did apartheid South Africa, as a pariah state whose leaders are shunned. He said that Obama “continues to diminish himself and America, and leads bad people to think America can be pushed around.”
Really? I think that the truly bad people are those who believe, in overweening arrogance, that they can sacrifice their President and their democracy on the altar of egos and ambitions.
While certainly Adelson and Saban are entitled to indulge in that all-too-legal, all-too-American pastime of trying to buy friends and influence, what is particularly disturbing is that they are doing it to advance the agenda of a foreign country. Particularly disturbing is that Romney is but the spearhead of a Republican effort that intends to try to derail America’s and the international community’s negotiations with Iran – so much so that a senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, promised Adelson and Saban that he would use his position in Congress to block a deal with Iran if the deal is not acceptable to Israel.
Haim Saban said that if Israel didn’t like the deal then if he were Benjamin Netanyahu he “would bomb the daylight out of these (Iranian) sons of bitches.”
No concern over whether the deal would be good for America — where Saban and Adelson made their billions — or for Middle East peace.
The most problematic moment came when Adelson said, “I don’t think the Bible says anything about democracy. I think God didn’t say anything about democracy. God talked about all the good things in life. He didn’t talk about Israel remaining as a democratic state, otherwise Israel isn’t going to be a democratic state — so what?”
So Adelson and Saban have thrived in this democracy. So they are free to profit, speak and advocate for issues that are important to them because we live in a democracy. Whether their positions are good for America – or for Middle East peace – they are privileged by citizenship to even try to manipulate opinion by diminishing the authority of our President.
I don’t like it, but it’s legal.
I believe that in January a concerted Republican-Israeli effort will be made to bypass President Obama in order to derail whatever deal the negotiations produce, regardless of the risks of no deal. The risks of no deal are real: an expanded theatre of conflict in the Middle East, higher oil prices, a return-to-secrecy Iranian nuclear program with no inspections. No help with ISIS. Closer cooperation between Iran and Russia, China, Syria, perhaps even India.
Even a military strike on Iran would be madness – only a temporary, not permanent “solution.” What Sheldon, Haim, Mitt, Lindsay, Bibi and others don’t get is that there is no military solution to any of this.
Yet they are all bent on introducing a Republican foreign policy, allied with supporters of Israel, based on confrontation with Iran, based on bypassing or defeating Obama’s initiatives by portraying the President as weak, apologetic, unsupportive of Israel, of being Other – of being “not American.”
I applaud Abraham Foxman, outgoing head of the Anti-Defamation League, who rebutted Adelson: “Sheldon Adelson’s comment suggesting that it’s not so important that Israel remain a democracy is disturbing on many levels. In fact, the founders of Israel got it exactly right when they emphasized the country being both a Jewish and democratic state. Any initiatives that move Israel away from either value would ill-serve the state and people of Israel.”
I caution all Americans, including Romney, Graham, Adelson and Saban, that any initiatives that move America away from its democratic values in order to support a foreign power without supporting fully American interests would ill-serve the state and people of America, ill-serve the people of Israel and ill-serve believers in justice and peace.
This column appeared originally in the Portsmouth Herald.