The need of the most powerful to turn themselves into victims

Whatever motivated the prosecution of two AIPAC officials, unfair oppression of that group in the U.S. wasn't it.

By Glenn Greenwald
Published May 2, 2009 5:45PM (EDT)

One of the most common, harmful and downright pitiful dynamics in our political culture is the bottomless need of those who wield the most power to constantly parade around as oppressed, persecuted victims:

Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, yesterday, on the AIPAC prosecutions:

[S]uffice it to say that this day was long overdue. Rosen and Weissman did what a thousand reporters in Washington do everyday, hear about information that's technically classified. The only difference is that these two worked for a demonized lobby.

Michael Crowley, The New Republic, today, on this week's AIPAC conference:

AIPAC says 6500 people will attend the conference, including half the House and Senate plus such congressional leaders as Dick Durbin, Eric Cantor, Steny Hoyer and Jon Kyl. Israeli President Shimon Peres speaks Monday morning and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks that evening.

Biden speaks on Tuesday. As a candidate, Barack Obama addressed the AIPAC conference last spring, vowing to do "everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

Just compare Goldberg's claim with Crowley's facts.  The idea that AIPAC is a "demonized lobby" that is treated unfairly in the United States generally -- or by the Bush administration specifically, which commenced the prosecutions -- has to be one of the biggest jokes ever to appear in anything having to do with The Atlantic.  What other lobbying organization can boast of summoning to its Conference half of the U.S. Congress -- as bipartisan a cast as possible -- along with the Vice President, following the visit last year by Obama, who read faithfully from the organization's script?  With rare exception, Congressional action that AIPAC demands -- even on as controversial matter as the Israeli attack on Gaza -- not only passes the Congress, but often with virtual unanimity.  Is there anyone who disputes that AIPAC is one of the most influential and powerful lobbying groups in the U.S., if not the most influential and powerful?

Just ponder the depths of irrationality and pathological persecution complex -- the desperate need to self-victimize -- necessary to claim that AIPAC, of all entities, is "demonized" and treated unfairly by the U.S. Government.  AIPAC.  But that's the self-pitying, self-absorbed syndrome that drives so much of our political discourse (an amazingly high percentage of right-wing political dialogue in particular adheres to this formula:  "I am X and X is treated so very unfairly" -- where X is virtually always among the groups wielding the most power:  American, white, Christian, Republican, male, etc. etc.).  It's the same mentality that leads people to insist that the true victim in the Middle East is the same country that, by far, possesses the greatest military might and uses it most often.  It's a bizarre process of inversion where those who are most powerful insist on claiming that they are the weakest, most vulnerable and most oppressed.

Although it's true -- as I argued three years ago and again yesterday -- that the prosecution of the two former AIPAC officials was wrong and abusive, that hardly means there was no wrongdoing here.  Indeed, as part of this case, a former DOD official and aide to Douglas Feith -- Larry Franklin -- was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison for passing classified military information to these two AIPAC officials and to an Israeli official.  The FBI agents assigned to this case continued through this week to insist that not only now-convicted Franklin, but also the two AIPAC officials, committed serious crimes and that there was ample evidence to prove their guilt. 

There are very compelling reasons why the mere receipt and transmission of classified information by non-government employees should not be criminalized, and there appeared to be specific reasons -- including a desire to protect classified information -- as to why the DOJ decided not to proceed with this particular prosecution.  But the mere failure by the state to obtain criminal convictions hardly precludes the view that the accused nonetheless engaged in wrongdoing -- criminal, political, ethical or otherwise (ask those who deny that proposition what they think about O.J. Simpson, or Marc Rich, or the officers who beat Rodney King, or Bill Clinton, or George Bush).  "Presumption of innocence" means the government can't treat someone like a criminal in the absence of a conviction after due process is accorded; it does not mean that citizens are barred from believing the person did something wrong.  There are many reasons aside from innocence why the state may decide not to prosecute someone.

Similarly, there are many possible motivations that drove the Bush DOJ to pursue these extremely unusual and deeply misguided prosecutions against these two AIPAC officials.  Whatever those motives might be, the idea that it was because the Bush administration harbored animus towards AIPAC or that AIPAC is a marginalized and oppressed group in the United States is so painfully ludicrous that it's truly surprising that someone can express it with a straight face.  But self-pity and blinding self-absorption are potent afflictions, and it's thus not only possible -- but extremely common in our political discussions -- to witness those who exert the most influence and power petulantly insist that everything is stacked against them and everything bad that happens to them is an unfair by-product of their weakness, persecution and oppression.

Glenn Greenwald

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