April 27, 2005
Former Congressman Paul Findley says one fundamental question remains unanswered, why did we invade Iraq which had nothing to do with 9/11 and posed no threat whatever to the United States? Paul Findley, 83, was speaking at a symposium - "War or Peace" - in Newark CA, sponsored by the American Institute of International Studies (AIIS).
In a keynote speech entitled “the Middle East and US Foreign Policy,” the former Republican congressman pointed out that after discarding one premise after another, the president now trumpets the Iraqi war as urgently needed to bring democracy and freedom to Iraq. “Ponder this question: Could President Bush have rushed Congress and the American people into a bloody, $200 billion war in order to bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqi? Of course not. That justification would be rejected as preposterous.” (Picture shows from left: Former Congressman Paul Findley, AIIS President Syed Mahmood, Diane Rejman from the Veterans for Peace organization and Dr. Doug Treadway President, Ohlone College, Fremont, Caifornia.)
Invading Iraq was the worst folly in American history, according to Findley. “As a grim testament, more than sixteen hundred caskets containing youthful remains have been shipped from Iraq to their grieving families in America. Wounded fill military hospitals. Thousands of families in America and many more in Iraq are blighted forever.”
Paul Findley who served from 1981-1983 as a U.S. Representative from Illinois, said that there can be no doubt that Israel is the real reason for US invasion of Iraq. He pointed out that General Anthony Zinni, for a time the president’s special emissary to the Middle East, spoke the truth recently when he said Israel and oil are widely accepted in Washington, D.C., as the real reasons President Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq.
“And any close observer would know that Israel was by far the stronger of the two reasons. If our government commits acts of war, God forbid, against Iran and/or Syria, neither of which pose a threat to U.S. security, these wars will be executed mainly to benefit Israel.”
He believes that Iraq and Palestine are two sides of the same coin and if the US truly seeks justice for the Palestinian people, the Iraqi insurgency would subside.
The former congressman argued that U.S. Middle East policy is not designed by U.S. officials but it is the creation of two religious communities here in America, (Jewish and Christian Right) communities that have attained great political power.
For over 35 years, successive US administrations have engaged by proxy in what must be described as a war of territorial conquest undertaken by the State of Israel, he said and added: “We continue this proxy war, and beginning three years ago we started our own non-proxy wars, using our own military in direct invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Both invasions can be traced to our government’s passionate attachment to Israel.”
Paul Findley recalled a statement of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, she made two years ago when she was the National Security adviser, that the United States has an Israel-centric foreign policy. He said that Rice did not elaborate her statement but I will. “Zealots among U.S. Jews and conservative Christians have become a political powerhouse. They are aided and abetted unwittingly by radicals who profess to be Muslims, people who engage in reprehensible suicide bombings and thus violate Islamic rules by taking their own lives and the lives of innocent people.”
Elaborating on the two groups, Findley said that the older pro-Israel religious group is headed by Israel’s formal U.S. lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). It consists almost exclusively of U.S. citizens of the Jewish faith. “My book, They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby, explains in detail the origin, history, and techniques of this lobby,” he added. The other group is of more recent origin which consists of Christians who accept a dangerous interpretation of the Bible’s Book of Revelations, he said. “It consists of more than seventy million citizens. Without this group’s support, Bush would not have been reelected in 2004.”
Paul Findley said that the pro-Israel lobbies defeat legislators who criticize Israel. “Senators Adlai Stevenson and Charles Percy, and Reps. Paul “Pete” McCloskey, Cynthia McKinney, Earl Hilliard, and myself were defeated at the polls by candidates heavily financed by pro-Israel forces. Of the victims, only McKinney regained her seat in Congress.”
In his view, if the U.S. government had refused to finance Israel’s subjugation of Palestine, 9/11 would not have occurred and there would be no war in Iraq or Afghanistan. “Any U.S. president in the last 35 years could have forced Israel to end its occupation of Arab land seized in 1967 simply by suspending all U.S. aid. But none did.”
He went on to say that terrorism almost always arises from deeply-felt grievances, but in the wake of 9/11, our government has made no effort to recognize legitimate grievances that may have provoked the suicide bombers. “The grievances exist, but our government makes no effort to recognize them, much less redress them. Nothing can justify 9/11. Those guilty deserve severe punishment, but it makes no sense for our government to ignore motivations.”
On the Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians his remarks were very frank: “Our president rarely says a sympathetic word about the Palestinians. He often says Israel has a right to defend itself but never mentions the same right for Palestine. Nor does he mention the fact that some Palestinians become suicide bombers because this reprehensible tactic seems to them the only way to fight back. Our president must be persuaded to suspend all aid until Israel behaves. America must cut all ties to Israel’s criminal behavior. If President Bush suspends aid, he will liberate all Americans from further complicity in Israel’s misdeeds.”
Findley pointed out that foreigners now see US as an imperial nation bent on the military domination of the Middle East and beyond. “In the name of national security, our government scuttles the doctrine of national sovereignty, the bedrock of the legal rights of nations for more than three centuries. Our government no longer reserves war as an instrument of last resort. We plan more wars. Will Iran be next? Then Syria? Pray to God the answer will be no.”
At home, he said, precious civil liberties are suspended while hundreds of Muslims were rounded up for questioning and for detention on flimsy charges or no charges at all. “These arrests stir unwarranted public fear of Islam. According to recent polls, 25 percent of the American people believe Muslims are anti-American. Forty-four percent believe they encourage violence—nearly double the percentage of a year ago. Forty-six percent want the civil liberties of U.S. Muslims restricted. A Protestant clergyman wrote to me the other day, declaring that all Muslims should be evicted from America. Muslims actually make great contributions to the betterment of America. A California Muslim recently received the Nobel Prize in physics.”
Speaking about the stereotyping of Muslims in the mainstream media, the former congressman pointed out that most Americans mistakenly believe that Muslims condone suicide bombings and other violence, that they worship a strange, vengeful God, that they abuse women, and want to make radical changes in the American system of government. “These stereotypes are false, but they are so prevalent they constitute a road block to the reform of US policy. Until the stereotypes are dismissed, they will evoke sympathy for Israel, surrounded as it is by millions of Muslims, people mislabeled as terrorists,” said Findley who is also the author another best selling book "Silent No More: Confronting America's False Images of Islam.”
Elaborating on stereotyping of Muslims in America, Dr. Laurence Michalak, Vice Chair at the Center of Middle Eastern Studies, University of California, Berkeley, stressed his point with an interesting story: A reporter approaches a young man who has just saved a child from a rabid dog (by killing the dog) and tells him what a hero he is. But after a couple of questions and finding out that the young man is a Pakistani of the Islamic faith the headlines the next day read: “Muslim terrorist kills defenseless puppy.”
He said that the news media was forced to simplify things and in the process missed the reality of conflicts in the process. Dr. Michalak said that academics could do a better job in analyzing the reality since they had more than 30 seconds which the news media reserved for these issues. (Picture shows from left: Fremont CA Mayor Gus Morisson, Dr. Hatem Bazian and Dr.Lawrence Michalak)
Speaking at the “War or Peace” forum penal on major conflicts, Dr. Hatem Bazian, Professor at the Near Eastern & Ethnic Studies Department at UC Berkeley reminded the audience that this day (April 10) was the anniversary of the massacre of Palestinians in Deir Yassin by the Israelis, which led to the fleeing of about 800,000 Palestinians from their homes. It may be recalled that on April 9-10, 1948 Jewish terrorist groups, Irgun and Lehi attacked the village of Deir Yassin near Jerusalem. During this attack over 100 men, women and children were killed according to the New York Times of April 13, 1948.
Dr. Bazian said that Israel was flouting UN Resolutions on Palestine and the right of return of the Palestinians to their homeland.
Echoing the theme of Paul Findley, Dr. Bazian said that the United States was funding Israeli aggression against the Palestinians. “Nobody can ignore that so far US has given to Israel $120 billion. According to Findley America’s massive, unconditional support has encouraged Israel’s leadership to defy the rules of international law and the provisions of the United Nations charter by engaging in territorial conquest, assassinations, wholesale destruction of lives, homes, and means of livelihood.
Dr. Bazian was of the view that we are in the Middle East for oil and for no other reason. In Venezuela, another oil producing country, we are trying to remove President Hugo Chavez, he added. He questioned if the United States has the right to interfere in every part of the world?
On the current conflict involving the US and Muslims, Dr. Bazian recalled the recruitment of Afghans for Jihad against the Soviet invading forces in Afghanistan. “Weren’t the Afghan Mujahideen once our best buddies?” he asked and added Muslim blood was spilled at the frontlines against the Soviet Union.
Dr. Stephen Zunes a Professor Department of Politics at the University of San Francisco told the seminar that the US does not get into trouble abroad because of its values but because it strayed from them.
President of the American Institute of International Studies (AIIS), Syed Mahmood, also pointed out that America is globally friendless today (except for Britain and Israel) and that needs to change. He said that the critical element of justice cannot be ignored to bring about a real peace in the world. He gave statistics of the hundreds of millions of lives lost in war just in the last century.
The AIIS President believes that the United Nations can play a stronger role to maintain global peace. Syed Mahmood, a former congressional candidate of the Republican Party, suggested the UN Security Council needs to be readjusted to include more permanent member states so that it can better represent the globe. In his view Pakistan and India, both nuclear powers, deserve a Security Council seat, one representing the Islamic world and the other due to its economic and population size.