Hagel, the lobby and the limits of power

In an op-ed on the campaign against the possible nomination of Chuck Hagel as next U.S. secretary of defense, Muhammad Idrees Ahmad writes: The late great historian Tony Judt once observed that what makes the Israel lobby distinctive is that unlike other lobbies it is not content with achieving its desired political outcomes; it also had an interest in denying its own existence and enforcing silence on the subject of its lobbying. It exists “to silence as well as to voice, to suppress as well as to secure”.

During Obama’s first term when a similar battle raged over the appointment of former Ambassador Chas Freeman as the Director of National Intelligence and when Chuck Hagel’s name was first floated as a potential adviser, Natasha Mozgovaya of the Israeli daily Haaretz reported on an astonishing reality of American politics. “Every appointee to the American government”, she wrote, “must endure a thorough background check by the American Jewish community.”

This is a curious position for a democracy to find itself in where an interest group lobbying on behalf of a foreign state can exercise veto power over government appointments based on ideological litmus tests. The distortion it engenders has been obvious in the disastrous course of recent US foreign policy.

For the majority of Americans who are tired of perpetual war, the battle over Hagel’s appointment presents an opportunity to check this decline. They can finally confront the forces of militarism and restore much-needed sanity. It is not a coincident that the line-up of Hagel’s detractors looks remarkably similar to the line-up that promoted the Iraq war and is eager to bomb Iran. [Continue reading…]

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