Zionism, Militarism, and the Decline of US Power
By James Petras
Paperback: 192 pages
(Clarity Press, 2008)
Professor James Petras has written another book — Zionism, Militarism, and the Decline of US Power — probing deeper into what he contends is a Zionist Power Configuration (ZPC) that has infiltrated and largely usurped US foreign policy even using the US military for its ends in the Middle East. Petras fills his book with lots of evidence backed by sound rationales.
Petras’s thesis is that Israel — and not Big Oil — was behind the push to invade and occupy Iraq. That has already happened. What concerns Petras now is the push by the ZPC to have the United States again breach international law and launch an attack against Iran.
Petras reasons that the ZPC’s purpose is to incorporate Palestine and consolidate its hegemony in the Middle East. Strategically, gaining and holding sway over the planet’s preeminent military power has been a major plank toward this goal.
The professor provides numerous examples of the sway the ZPC wields and how it wields it: through its propaganda and media arms (Petras cites how, pre-“war,” the Lobby produced about 8,800 pro-Iraq attack pieces which were circulated to major Anglo-American media versus zero pro-Iraq attack pieces published from Big Oil spokespeople); through its academic acolytes; through involving US soldiers to fight its wars (Petras charges that the Israel Firsters “ridicule the US military precisely to instigate them to prosecute wars and thereby avoid the loss of Israeli-Jewish lives”); through the relative silence of dissenting voices, including dissenting Jewish voices in mass media; through members of the US Congress beholden through acceptance of campaign contributions form the Lobby.
Campaign contributions turn out, actually, to be an investment. Through seeding the US Congress, Israel has become the prime beneficiary of US “aid,” even though Israel is a relatively well-to-do state, especially compared to many of its neighbors. Petras wavers on what the “US annual ‘tribute to Israel’” is. On page 68, he cites a figure of $6 billion a year; on page 68 he states $3 billion a year; on page 156, it is $2.4 billion a year; and on page 164 it is “well over $3 billion” a year. This irritation contributes to unevenness in Petras’s account.
Exacerbating this irritation is an uneven patchwork of endnotes. Sometimes key points are in the endnotes, and sometimes key points are not in the endnotes. For example, he writes that Big Oil is anxious and fearful about an Israeli-instigated warmongering destabilizing the Middle East citing a source for this claim (p. 32). On page 92 he claims electoral chicanery without citation. Whether the claims are true or not is beside the point, which is that the reader is hindered from checking the professor’s sources. And when there are endnotes, many convey scanty information (e.g., no author, no title, no page) that forces a reader to spend inordinate time tracking down a citation.
Petras, however, deserves kudos for taking on the Lobby which resorts to disreputable tactics to try and silence its critics. Petras does not shirk from identifying how he perceives the threat from the ZPC: “The lesson is clear: the rise of Judeo-fascism represents a clear and present danger to our democratic freedoms in the United States.”
The ZPC is ruthless says Petras, who observes that Israel reneges on obligations as an occupier in Palestine and engages in “meat-grinder genocidal policies in Gaza.” And yet, it has vulnerabilities, such as the “repeated failures and incredible stupidity of the Israeli intelligence agencies.”
The ZPC control apparatus is necessarily twined with the corporate media. “State provocations,” writes Petras, “require uniform mass media complicity in the lead-up to open warfare.”
With a massive media blitz and compliant government, Israel recruits US soldiers to fight its wars. The US, on the other hand, tries to get its victims to fight against their fellow countryfolk. This is a dubious strategy reasons Petras, as Iraqis fighters under occupation “recruited on basis of hunger and unemployment (caused by US war) are unreliable soldiers.”
This, according to Petras, is a losing tactic: “US colonization of Iraq is a blatant denial of the conditions necessary for reconciliation.”
Just how losing a strategy it is to run a militaristic economy is evidenced by the massive capitalistic expansion of non-belligerent China. In fact, the US is becoming less competitive and falling into an increasingly dire economic situation
Petras describes a schism among Jewry. He notes that “most Jewish Americans differ from the leaders of the major American Jewish organizations” … but that “they have not or do not challenge” this leadership. Antiwar sentiment among Jewish Americans, finds Petras, is quite vague.
He writes that “both the progressive majority of Jews and the reactionary minority … have a fundamental point of agreement and convergence: support for and identity with Israel and its anti-Arab prejudices, its expansion, and the dispossession of Palestine [sic].”
Given that the peace movement has gone AWOL, this bodes ill for the peoples of the Middle East. Here again, Petras holds the ZPC responsible since he charges that it has also infiltrated the antiwar movement and split it, rendering it anemic.
Petras notes that everywhere he visits around the globe people from all walks ask him why American citizens tolerate the killing done by the US government/military. This is a good question, but another question is unasked by Petras. Why do these citizens not demand the same answers from their complicit governments which, even when they do not contribute fighters to a so-called Coalition of the Willing, remain silent to the great criminal breaches of international law and the abandonment of morality?
That is why Petras’s thesis in Zionism, Militarism, and the Decline of US Power is important: innocent people are dying for wicked reasons.