Monday, May 29, 2006

Walt/Mearsheimer 1, Philip Zelikow 0

Phillip Zelikow

Executive Director, 9/11 Commission

The historic piece on the Israel lobby in the London Review of Books in March continues to resonate. In the latest LRB, there is a dispute between the paper's authors, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, and the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, Philip Zelikow. It is a dispute that Walt and Mearsheimer win handily.

Zelikow was quoted in the original article in such a way as to offer a smoking gun for the assertion that Israel's interests played an important role in the U.S. decision to invade Iraq.
[Zelikow said] the 'real threat' from Iraq was not a threat to the United States. The 'unstated threat' was the 'threat against Israel', Zelikow told an audience at the University of Virginia in September 2002. 'The American government,' he added, 'doesn't want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell.'

Zelikow now writes to the LRB that he was quoted out of context, that he was referring to the 90-91 Gulf War. But he surely did not anticipate that Walt and Mearsheimer have a transcript of the speech, which includes the following:

Third. The unstated threat. And here I criticise the [Bush] administration a little, because the argument that they make over and over again is that this is about a threat to the United States. And then everybody says: 'Show me an imminent threat from Iraq to America. Show me, why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us?' So I'll tell you what I think the real threat is, and actually has been since 1990. It's the threat against Israel. And this is the threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans don't care deeply about that threat, I will tell you frankly. And the American government doesn't want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it's not a popular sell.


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