In 2008, the 13-term, AIPAC-supporting, Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman co-sponsored a resolution along with GOP Rep. Mike Pence declaring Iran to be a threat to "the vital national security interests of the United States" and "demanding" that the President impose a full-scale naval, air and land blockade on Iran, i.e., start a war against that country (see the last WHEREAS clause, paragraph (3)). Ackerman -- who also voted to authorize the war in Iraq -- continues to this day to be one of the leading Democrats demanding what he calls "crippling sanctions" against Iran and insisting that President Obama be prepared to wage war against Iran if negotiations fail. Two weeks ago, Rep. Ackerman -- standing in front of an Israeli and American flag -- delivered a blistering 8-minute speech in Manhattan, in which he railed against the Goldstone Report, the Palestinians, the "Arab world," the mere suggestion that Israel might be to blame for civilian deaths, and the threat posed to Israel from Iran (h/t New York Observer).
Ackerman's short speech is really worth watching, just to get a sense for what is driving a substantial part of the increasingly strident calls that the U.S. confront the Iranians. Just watch it and decide for yourself what his motivating views and concerns are, but as you formulate your assessment, you'd best keep in mind the stern warnings issued last week by Jonathan Chait and Jeffrey Goldberg: namely, the mere suggestion that some Americans favor U.S. aggression in the Muslim world due to concerns about Israel, rather than the U.S., has a "revolting provenance" that "should disgust all thinking people." Thus, while quasi-clearing Andrew Sullivan of anti-semitism charges, they warned all of us that one had better be extremely careful in how one discusses such matters (as Sullivan failed to do) lest one be justifiably (even if wrongly) accused of anti-Semitism -- or, as Eric Alterman deftly summarized Chait's warnings: "Andrew may not be an anti-Semite but anyone who is concerned with the Israel's lobby's ability to thwart the peace process or interfere with the conduct of a sensible policy toward the region is guilty of holding an idea of 'revolting provenance' and hence, is only asking to be described this way, true or not . . . if you, yourself find any cause for concern in the actions of the Israel lobby, prepare to find yourself similarly smeared":
There are several noteworthy aspects to his remarks: his view that Israel's military superiority is due both to God's will and the generosity of "Uncle Sam"; his argument that the U.S. should view the Goldstone Report as dangerous to its interests because "on any given month during the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in one month probably more innocent civilians are killed by American troops -- unintended consequences -- than in the whole Gaza incursion" and that accepting the Goldstone Report would therefore mean that American troops and political leaders will end up before the Hague on war crimes charges (which is almost certainly one of the reasons that the Obama administration has continued Bush's unyielding refusal to join the International Criminal Court -- once a source of controversy among Democrats (when Bush did it)); the standard self-absorbed tribalism pervading most political disputes (my group is blameless but so unfairly persecuted); the endless Orwellian semantics (no matter who the aggressor is, anyone who fights against my side is a Terrorist); the attempts to blame Obama's "unrealistic" anti-settlement position for the lack of peace negotiations; and his seemingly unintentional copying of Donald Rumsfeld's notorious phrase to dismiss the horrific human devastation caused by the Israelis in Gaza: "stuff happens when you're fighting Terrorists; blame the Terrorists, don't blame the Israelis."
But whatever else is true, once one listens to this, it's simply impossible to deny that this highly influential American Congressman, devoted to pushing the U.S. to war with Iran, is driven, at least in substantial part, by his fervent devotion to Israel. There's nothing wrong with that per se, but there is much wrong with trying to force people to pretend it's not true.
UPDATE: In this five-minute clip from yesterday, Brown University Professor Glenn Loury and Matt Yglesias discuss the means used to restrict debate on such issues (h/t Sullivan):
Juan Cole, however, makes a point I've made many times: namely, these restrictions -- mostly due to overuse -- have clearly diminished in potency, and as a result, these debates are far more open than ever before.