Sunday, November 09, 2008

Stephen Zunes: Rahm Emanuel: Single Loyalty? --To Israel

The choice of Rahm Emanuel as Obama’s chief of staff is scary, Emanuel is hardly a voice for change. It’s hard to distinguish many of his policies from Bush’s.

I’ve been trying to discern a silver lining. Could it be that, like Lincoln, Obama is cleverly including opposition to change within his administration. Also by choosing Emanuel, Obama might be trying to soften blows he might otherwise receive from AIPAC and the Israeli lobby in case he hints at a more just U.S. Mideast policy.

Yes, we can hope, but it’s hard now to imagine Obama moving away from the right on crucial issues. Didn’t I already read in the New York Times a reaffirmation of Obama’s promise to add to the devastatingly bloated “Defense” budget?

The Zunes article is so good it’s hard to excerpt. I’ve also added a couple of paragraphs from Alex Cockburn’s very good article on the same subject.


Is Obama Screwing His Base with Rahm Emanuel Selection?
By Stephen Zunes, AlterNet
November 7, 2008,

Stephen Zunes writes:

I had really wanted to celebrate Barack Obama's remarkable victory for a day or so before becoming cynical again. I really did.

And yet, less than 24 hours after the first polls closed, the president-elect chose as his chief of staff -- perhaps the most powerful single position in any administration -- Rahm Emanuel, one of the most conservative Democratic members of Congress.

The chief of staff essentially acts as the president's gatekeeper, determining with whom he has access for advice and analysis. Obama is known as a good listener who has been open to hearing from and considering the perspectives of those on the Left as well as those with a more centrist to conservative perspective. How much access he will actually have as president to more progressive voices, however, is now seriously in question.

Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel is a member of the so-called New Democrat Coalition (NDC), of group of center-right pro-business Congressional Democrats affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Conference, which is dedicated to moving the Democratic Party away from its more liberal and progressive base. Numbering only 58 members out of 236 Democrats in the current House of Representatives, the NDC has worked closely with its Republican colleagues in pushing through and passing such legislation as those providing President Bush with "fast-track" trade authority in order to bypass efforts by labor, environmentalists and other public interest groups to promote fairer trade policy.

Emanuel began his political career as a senior adviser and chief fundraiser for the successful 1989 Chicago mayoral campaign of Richard M. Daley to seize back City Hall from reformists who had challenged the corrupt political machine of this father, Richard J. Daley. Emanuel later became a senior adviser to Bill Clinton at the White House from 1993 to 1998, serving as Assistant to the President for Political Affairs and then Senior Advisor to the President for Policy and Strategy, and was credited with playing a major role in shifting the Clinton administration's foreign and domestic policy agenda to the right. Emanuel was the single most important official involved in pushing through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the bill ending Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), and Clinton's draconian crime bill, among other legislation.

Leaving the administration in 1998, Emanuel worked as an investment banker in Chicago, where he amassed an $18 million fortune in less than three years prior to being elected to Congress.

As head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee since 2004, Emanuel has promoted pro-war and pro-business center-right candidates against anti-war and pro-labor candidates in the primaries, pouring millions of dollars of donations from Democrats across the country into the campaigns of his favored conservative minions to defeat more progressive challengers.

Emanuel was a major supporter of the Iraq War resolution that authorized the invasion of Iraq. Indeed, he was the only one of nine Democratic members of Congress from Illinois who backed granting Bush this unprecedented authority to invade a country on the far side of the world that was no threat to the United States at the time. Even more disturbingly, when asked by Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" whether he would have voted to authorize the invasion "knowing that there are no weapons of mass destruction," Emanuel answered that he indeed would have done so, effectively acknowledging that his support for the war was not about national security, but about oil and empire. Not surprisingly, he has also voted with the Republicans in support of unconditional funding to continue the Iraq War and has consistently opposed efforts by other Democrats to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. occupation forces from that country and related Congressional efforts to end the war.

At a time of record budget deficits, Emanuel has been a passionate supporter of increased spending for the Pentagon and has resisted efforts by fellow Democrats to trim excesses in the Bush administration's bloated military budget. For example, he has repeatedly voted against amendments to cut funding for Bush's dangerously destabilizing missile defense and even voted against an amendment to identify unnecessary Pentagon spending by examining the need, relevance and cost of Cold War weapons systems designed to fight the former Soviet Union.

A major hawk regarding Iran, Emanuel has also voted against Democratic efforts to prevent the Bush administration from launching military action against that country and has joined the administration in exaggerated claims about Iran's alleged nuclear threat. He is not opposed to nuclear proliferation if it involves U.S. allies, however. Emanuel has consistently voted against a series of Democratic amendments that would have strengthened safeguards in the Bush administration's nuclear cooperation agreement with India to prevent U.S. assistance from supporting India's nuclear weapons program.

Emanuel is also a prominent hawk regarding Israel, attacking the Bush administration from the right for criticizing Israel's assassination policies and other human rights abuses. He was also a prominent supporter of Israel's 2006 attacks on Lebanon, even challenging the credibility of Amnesty International and other human rights groups that reported Israeli violations of international humanitarian law. Emanuel's father had emigrated from Israel in the 1950s, where he had been a member of the terrorist group Irgun, which had been responsible for a series of terrorist attacks against Palestinian and British civilians in mandatory Palestine during the 1940s. Emanuel himself served in a civilian capacity as a volunteer for the Israeli army in the early 1990s.

It is unclear how serious of a blow Obama's selection of Emanuel is to those who hoped that Obama might actually steer the country in a more progressive direction. It's easy to see it as nothing less than a slap in the face of the progressive anti-war elements of the party to whom Obama owes his election, particularly following his selection of Sen. Joe Biden as vice president. (See my articles "Biden's Foreign Policy 'Experience'" and "Biden, Iraq, and Obama's Betrayal.")

However, this does not necessarily mean that Obama as president will pursue nothing better than a Clintonesque center-right agenda. Someone with Obama's intelligence, knowledge and leadership qualities need not be unduly restricted by the influence of his chief of staff as less able presidents have. At the same time, this shocking appointment of Emanuel is illustrative of the need for the progressive base that brought him to power to not celebrate too long and to refocus our energies into pushing hard to ensure that the change Obama promised is something we really can believe in.

Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco and serves as a senior policy analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus.
© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

November 7 / 9, 2008
CounterPunch Diary
Hail to the Chief of Staff


Working in the Clinton White House, Emanuel helped push through NAFTA, the crime bill, the balanced budget and welfare reform. He favored the war in Iraq, and when he was chairing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006 he made great efforts to knock out antiwar Democratic candidates. On this site in October and November, 2006, John Walsh documented both the efforts and Emanuel’s role in losing the Democrats seats they would otherwise have won.

In 2006 Emanuel had just published a book with Bruce Reed called The Plan: Big Ideas for America, with one section focused on “the war on terror”. Emanuel and Reed wrote, “We need to fortify the military's ‘thin green line ‘around the world by adding to the U.S. Special Forces and the Marines, and by expanding the U.S. army by 100,000 more troops. …Finally we must protect our homeland and civil liberties by creating a new domestic counterterrorism force like Britain's MI5.” Recall that Obama has been calling throughout his recent campaign for an addition of 92,000 to the US Army and US Marine Corps.

Emanuel and Reed had fond words for the mad-dog Peter Beinart, neocon warrior theoretician for the Democrats, roosting Marty Peretz's The New Republic, and author of The Good Fight where Beinart explained why a tough new national security policy is as essential to the future of progressive politics as a united front against totalitarianism and communism was to the New Deal and the Great Society. Emanuel and Reed also commended Anne-Marie Slaughter's proposal for "a new division of labor in which the United Nations takes on economic and social assistance and an expanded NATO takes over the burden of collective security." In other words, let NATO shoot the natives and the UN clean the floors.

Read more:


Anonymous said...

I expect this kind of insidious response from a Saudi funded chair. He’s concerned about Rahm Emanuel but not about Farakhan, Davis, Ayers, or Rashidi. The U.S. should always act in its best interest. German sympathy was a major obstacle to entering WWII. Antisemitic rants called it a “Jew war” up until Pearl Harbor; we still have not learned the lesson of 9/11. The Arab world only respects strength and their agenda is confirmed by how good, kind and generous we are.

Israel, the buttress of the west, has held back the Islamofascists’ aspirations of conquering and dominating the world. Will it take another catastrophe for the world to show a little gratitude for G-D's chosen people?
P.S . Please see Nonie Darwish and Brigitte Gabriel for more enlightened reading .

Ronald said...

Joe wrote:
Zunes is a zionist...ii outed him a couple years ago...and he stated that ,Yes, I am a zionist. He is not a jew but his wife is. he is also a leftist. Joe

M began by quoting my blog entry:

Could it be that, like Lincoln, Obama is cleverly including opposition to change within his administration. Also by choosing Emanuel, Obama might be trying to soften blows he might otherwise receive from AIPAC and the Israeli lobby in case he hints at a more just U.S. Mideast policy.

M commented;
On what basis do you suppose that Obama is even considering a more just US mideast policy? What has he ever done to merit that supposition? And what is this stuff about "cleverly including opposition to change within his administration"? He has never represented much change, which has been for the most part an empty slogan which people are eager to believe. Indeed, it was Emanuel who pointed out that whichever candidate could claim to be a change, usually spurious, wins the election. I simply cannot fathom why Obama gets this benefit of the doubt. . . maybe that's what "charisma" means. If I had a crystal ball, I would predict that his administration will be like that of Clinton, who everyone was so smitten with that despite disappointment after disappointment, they continued to hope that something good would happen. . . M

Sam wrote:
If there's to be change, how do you "(include) opposition to change?"

Obama's change can be very little if it means change from the extremely far right of Bush. He did not say that was not the change he would make. We can hope for more, but is there evidence it will be left of center or even to center? Perhaps on some domestic issues but in foreign affairs?

I suspect Obama's main contribution to history has already occurred: a minority is to be resident of White House. Therefore, his greatest "change" may be social, not political. The electorial process seems set up to vet anyone who might give us true political change. So we wait to see.


M quoted another writer:

I suspect Obama's main contribution to history has already occurred: a minority is to be resident of White House.

And M replied:

It has gone largely unreported but another "social" change against a population group occurred during the election: the State Senate of New Hampshire finally has a female majority. Anyone cheering?--M

S wrote:
What's got New Hamshire to lead the world?

Of the 349 (Swedish) parliament members, 47 percent are women (164 people). After the last election in 2002, women made up 45.3 percent of parliament.

Sweden remains the second most gender-balanced parliament in the world, after Rwanda, where 48.8 percent of representatives are women, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The next most successful country in Europe is Norway, where 37.9 percent of seats are held by women.

A wrote:
Why is it that liberals insist of seeing political change in terms of demons and saviors?
I hate to tell you Ronald, but its really about class struggle...
and in this game, deceiving the people is a long time tactic...
how is it that you have forgotten this lesson?
but that's OK...
the financial oligarchy will teach it to you again....

Ronald said...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Nice to see that popular Canadian Blogger, Xymphora (he got 173 comments on this blog) and I were on the same wave length on the question of whether Obama might have picked up trick from Lincoln and brought Emanuel into the tent instead of having him circumscribe whatever justice he can try to manage for the Palestinians from outside. It's a big hope but we still have a few weeks where hope will be largest before the fall.

Blogger Xymphora wrote:
11 November 2008
Barack Machiavelli
Rahm Emanuel, the son-of-a-racist-terrorist son-of-a-bitch Israeli firster, as Obama's chief of staff seems to send an awful message, that despite all the damage that American fealty to Zionism has done - to itself, Israel, and the world - and despite all the hopes and wishes of true American progressives - who of course can't elucidate what they really want without being slurred! - Obama is just another traitor who couldn't wait to don the shackles of the Jewish Billionaires. I wouldn't give up being suspicious, but I think the Rahm appointment may have been a bit of genius.

Rahm has to be dealt with. He has an immense power base in the Democratic Party. He isn't going anywhere. If Obama had left him in the House, Rahm would have been running things, and could have held Obama's legislative agenda to ransom for the only issue that concerns Rahm, ultra-Zionism. Making Rahm chief of staff, a position which sounds good, but carries no real power, cuts Rahm's balls off. It was a brilliant move - a position important enough that Rahm couldn't turn it down (and Obama made sure the offer was made public to put the pressure on Rahm), but a position that denies Rahm any real sway over American politics. The Head Jew, whose approval Rahm would have had to seek to ensure the move was in accordance with the tenets of Organized American Zionism, must be shaking his head at the cleverness of this schwartze.

Don't give up on Obama yet. The Rahm move could be a sign of American patriotism, not more treason. I am still convinced that the people pulling Obama's strings are the Old American Establishment, and the Old American Establishment really wants to try to save American power (and don't forget that American economic woes caused by the Wars For The Jews have greatly reduced the wealth and power of the Jewish Billionaires - this kind of embarrassment would not have been necessary before they lost their power). To do so, there can be no more Wars For The Jews, and there needs to be a real final settlement of the Jewish Holocaust against the Palestinians, a settlement that the United States can take credit for. In order to make this happen, needless to say, Obama's senior cabinet has to be Judenfrei. That's because there are simply no Jewish American political operatives who are not Zionists. It remains to be seen whether Obama is an American Machiavelli or another American traitor.

Anonymous said...


Such fantastical ravings; I’m sure Goebbels is doing a jig in hell. Too bad you didn’t live in Nazi Germany at that time; I’m sure you could have been a daily contributor to Der Sturmer. The Jews always look more powerful in anti-Semitic newspapers and blogs. Too bad they don’t have all the influence you attribute to them. I’m sure the world would be a better place.

If Jewish lobbyists had any power, then Israel would not be the only country to secede from land they conquered in wars that were imposed upon them.

If Rahm was an ardent Zionist, then he wouldn't have advocated on behalf of the Oslo “peace” process, an agreement that would have pushed Israel back to Auschwitz borders.

If there are a handful of Jewish billionaires, they would pale in comparison to the myriads of OPEC lords.


If you could just hate the greatest contributors to mankind just a little bit more, then I'm sure you would do us all a favor and implode.

Anonymous said...

For more enlightened reading, please see reknown historian Paul Johnson’s History of the Jews, as well as Daniel Pipes and Steven Emerson for a reality check.