Will James Baker Stay True to Form?

The Iraq Study Group (ISG), a purportedly bi—partisan group chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, has been convening hearings and soliciting opinions from experts regarding the future course America should take regarding Iraq.

This process has been taking place far from the glare of public lights — perhaps so as to not affect the midterm elections. However, now that the midterm elections are over, various leaks seem to have sprung. James Baker has been promoting his new book and actually tipped his hand a bit, as allusions have appeared in the press that the group will seemingly expand its mandate to cover the entire Middle East.

If true, this has ominous implications for Israel, as various observers have indicated that the report will advise America to pressure Israel to make concessions to the Hamas—run Palestinian Government. This despite Hamas' oft—stated goal (in its founding Charter) to destroy Israel.

While the ISG is supposed to be bi—partisan and Lee Hamilton shares the co—chair position with Baker, anyone familiar with the players knows that James Baker is a powerful and well—connected man who has probably wielded a great deal of control over the proceedings.

Sunday's Washington Post article on the ISG confirms this view. According to the Post, although

"...Hamilton had a hand in selecting the Democrats on the group, its makeup reflects Baker's pragmatic, centrist approach to foreign policy" .

Given his anti—Israel reputation, is it possible that James Baker brought his pre—conceived notions and ideology to the deliberations in order to game the conclusions? If the weekend disclosure in the Washington Post of his actions and the actions of the ISG are any indication, yes.

One of the leaks regarding the ISG conclusions is that it will call for greater outreach and negotiations with Iran and Syria regarding the fate of Iraq. These two nations are implacable foes of Israel and America, and are two of the leading terror—sponsoring nations in the world. Iran has been linked to the deaths of hundreds of Americans in the Beirut terror bombings during the Reagan years, as well as the bombing of the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia.

Iran has violated agreements made with  the International Atomic Energy Agency and the European Union regarding its nuclear technology program, while at the same time taunting the world that it intends to obliterate Israel and wreak destruction upon America.

Regardless of this genocidal boast, James Baker apparently has "broken bread" with Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations during a three—hour dinner at the "elegant Ambassador's residence' in New York City. Does anyone think that Baker brought up the concept that genocide is not an acceptable foreign policy, and in fact, should be grounds for the Ambassador to face expulsion from the United Nations? 
More worrisome than Baker's tete a tete with Iran's Ambassador is the apparent fact, also disclosed by the Washington Post, that Ray Close, a former CIA hand, has been one of  the "experts' the ISG has relied upon in formulating its recommendations. Anyone familiar with the ways of Washington (as Baker surely must be) would be aware that Close has a very checkered past regarding his opinion of our ally Israel, and has made comments regarding American Jews that can be characterized as anti—Semitic. One does not even have to be an old Washington hand, as Baker is, to know of this. A simple internet search would have disclosed that Close is far from a neutral observer or expert regarding the Middle East. He seems, in fact, to be a proponent of the view that American Jews have been instrumental in leading us into the Iraq War and that support for Israel is not in our national interest.

In one article for the radical Counterpunch magazine, for example, he states that he was on the verge of having a bit of admiration for Richard Holbrooke, Kerry's foreign policy advisor, until it became clear (to him) that Holbrooke (who is of Jewish heritage) supported Israel. He wrote that Holbrooke's

"intellectual convictions (and ethnic prejudice) make it impossible for him to comprehend how Israeli occupation of Palestine and American occupation of Iraq"

are perceived in the Muslim world. "Ethnic prejudice"? So Holbrooke's Jewish heritage makes him prejudiced? Recall that Holbrooke is a man others lionized for saving Muslims during the Bosnian crisis a few years ago.
In another article, Close called Israel's actions in defending itself against Hezbollah "disproportionate and counterproductive." However, unlike some other critics (mostly found in Europe and the relentlessly anti—Israel United Nations) who felt compelled to limit their criticism to these acts, Close took the opportunity to condemn Israel for the entire history of actions it has taken to defend itself against enemies that have promised to destroy it.

He characterized such Israeli defensive actions as part of a national philosophy. This comes very close to the views of certain anti—Semites who have a penchant for broadly characterizing actions of Jews as somehow genetically—based. Read the following and make up your own mind.

"For more than half a century, the Israelis have been applying the tactic of massively disproportionate retaliation to every provocative act of resistance attempted by the Palestinians, expecting every time that this would bring peace and security to all the people of the Holy Land. Every single time they have done this this, it has backfired. Every single time. The national philosophy (it is really deeper and more significant that just a military tactic) that underlies this devotion to massive over—reaction, and particularly its corollary, collective punishment, is obviously and demonstrably foolish and futile. It does not intimidate or deter the Palestinians, and it never will. It hardens their determination to resist and to defy. I don't care whether you consider the Palestinians to be terrorists or common criminals or freedom fighters or national resistance heroes. If you are an intelligent and sensitive human being, you learn from your past mistakes and you make a rational decision to try something different. The Israeli leadership for all these many generations has been incapable of performing that really rather simple mental and moral exercise."

Close appears to be one of a long line of Arabists who have worked in the State Department and CIA who have links to Arabs that lead to an anti—Israel bias. He disclosed that his ancestors had established Christian mission schools over a hundred years ago in Lebanon. As analyzed in the outstanding book, The Arabists, by Robert Kaplan, Americans with such roots have historically been anti—Israel. Close follows this tradition.

In the same article he writes that in 1953, a

"secret unit of the Israeli Army slaughtered 68 innocent Palestinian civilians, mostly women and children in a village called Qibya, near Tel Aviv".

Accurate, honest, non—biased observation on his part? No.

Close completely ignores the reason Israel—region> was compelled to enter Qibya. Repeated cross—border terror attacks from Jordan—region> into Israel—region> had killed Israeli civilians in the past. Jordan—region> violated the armistice agreement it had entered into with Israel—region> (under UN auspices) over 1600 times. One hundred twenty—four Israelis were murdered and hundreds more were wounded. Shortly before the Israelis entered Qibya, Jordanian terrorists infiltrated the Israeli border and threw a grenade into a house, killing a mother and her two children in a small Israeli village.


In an effort to prevent further terror attacks, Israel—region> launched a raid on Qibya, a Jordanian town just across the border from the Israeli village recently attacked. Various accounts revolved around what occurred at Qibya. The Israelis have said that civilians were warned of upcoming attacks (as the Israeli are wont to do, as shown by their warnings to Gazans and Lebanese of future planned attacks) and they believed that the houses were unoccupied due to their advanced warnings.


The reality is much more complicated than Close would lead us to believe. He does not provide context regarding the Israeli entry into Qibya or that there are various accounts of what occurred there. Instead, he wants people to believe that it was just a "slaughter" by Israelis against unarmed, unwarned civilians—with no pretext behind the incursion into the village

Close concludes that the Unites States is not Israel, and that

"we have regional and global interests and responsibilities that far surpass those of one small ally. Just for once, let's think of what's best for America". 

These views again echo those of anti—Semites who promote views that Israel somehow controls America (no doubt, in Close's view, because of the "ethnic prejudice" of Jews in America").

In Close's views that he relayed to the ISG, the road to stability in the Middle East starts out in Jerusalem. In his view, what is apparently best for America is abandoning a democratic ally (our most reliable supporter in the region), breaking bread with tyrannical regimes that promote anti—Americanism and hatred towards Christians and Jews, negotiations with Hezbollah and its Syrian and Iranian supporters, and capitulation to the forces of Islamic extremism.

This was just one of the experts that Baker's group has relied upon to give "advice". The Iraq Study Group was supposed to be a bipartisan group that would rely on impartial experts to focus on ways to deal with Iraq. However, that appears to be a mere facade.

This exercise is appearing to be less a study group than a prosecution. When a prosecutor builds a case against somebody  he finds experts to support his case so the defendant will be found guilty. He does not rely on impartial observers. He is an advocate for a case.

The American—Israel alliance once again appears to be in the crosshairs of James Baker. Israeli Prime Minister Olmert may not have the strength to defend the American—Israel relationship. He is considered to be a weak leader and enjoys little popularity at home. He does not have the strong personal rapport with George Bush that Ariel Sharon had.

Olmert is up against an influential man with a long record of opposing the American—Israel alliance and who has a long record of coddling dictators and close business ties with Arab oil potentates. His track record would not seem to justify the influence he wields. As James Hoagland of the Washington Post put it,

[These are the] "policymakers who failed to anticipate and then opposed the breakup of the Soviet Union; who were not realistic enough to see, much less prevent, the Balkans from plunging into flames; and who coddled dictators from Beijing to Baghdad."

Baker is true to form if his plan for dealing with Iraq will consist of coddling dictators from Damascus to Teheran. What other cards does Baker have up his sleeves? Has Baker stacked the deck against Israel? Based on the evidence so far, the answers are not very comforting.

Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.