From the looks of it, the job of the U.S. military attache in Tel Aviv is to echo the views of Israel’s leaders, generals and spymasters. Otherwise, how does one account for the fact that in his farewell interview with the IDF magazine, BaMachaneh, Lt. Col. Rick Burgess likened Iran’s president to Adolph Hitler and claimed that Israel and the world were now facing a time like the 1930s when the Nazis came to power?
Ahmadinejad returns us to a scenario of the little guy with the moustache of the 1930s.
Interestingly, Burgess reassures the reporter that the strained relations between the Obama administration and Israel’s government are like those of “husband and wife,” which would mean, I suppose, that Israel and the U.S. are married. I would think that there would be either a U.S. law or at least State Department memorandum prohibiting countries from marrying each other. It seems a highly dubious way of conducting foreign relations, let alone marital relations.
Regarding Wikileaks and its impact on Israel-U.S. relations, Burgess marvels that Israel has turned it into a positive. Those documents that were leaked concerning Iran:
Confirmed what the U.S. and Israel have been saying [about Iran] for a long time: that there are other nations [in the region] as concerned about it as we are.
According to his appraisal, Iran was the most important subject he faced during his 18-month tenure as military attaché. He dealt with it from his first day on the job until the day of his interview. Nothing was more important. Gee, it makes you wonder what this guy’s priorities were and it also indicates why U.S. policy is so screwed up. Israel and the U.S. are, in Burgess’ view, in the same boat regarding Iran’s nuclear threat and it’s only natural that they collaborate the danger it poses, as they have in other military matters. It’s the reason we share intelligence as well, he says, though he won’t go into which material or how much is shared. To the interviewer’s question whether “our friends in the U.S.” would decide to assist us if we attack Iran or prefer not to open a second front against her, Burgess demurred with the conventional “all options remain open.” This would include, according to the attaché:
…Active defensive measures on the part of Israel and the U.S. Israel has the right to defend itself. And if Israel and the U.S. decide that this is the best way to protect Israel or the region in general, it [Israel] will do so [attack Iran]…It’s a frightening thought that Iran wants to be a world power and leader of the Islamic world and everything it does points in those directions.
Interesting that a discussion of attacking Iran invokes the notion that this somehow contains an element of self-defense on Israel’s and America’s part. The notion that Iran seeks to be a world power is laughable though of course it legitimately seeks to play a role in the Islamic world. But the notion that this is an urge on Iran’s part that must be checked by an assault on that country is passing strange.
Burgess also discusses his conversations with senior Israeli leaders who told him:
Remember the 30s and the little guy with the moustache who said all those things about the Jews? People said he didn’t mean what he said. That he wouldn’t do anything, and look what happened. At the end of the day, if you take a leader like Ahmadinejad and give his maximal power you will get a return of the 1930s era with the little guy with the moustache. This is a danger that Israel cannot afford.
To which I reply, the world cannot afford to entertain Israel’s delusions that events from history are repeating themselves. This is a problem of Israeli psychopathology for which it needs treatment, not the enabling of friends (or “wives”) like the United States and its military attaches. I for one abhor Israel’s misuse of Jewish history in this fashion. One tenet of Jewish philosophy I learned in my college Judaica courses was that the Holocaust was sui generis, in other words it was a unique historical event having no parallel. While subsequent contemporary historical events in Rwanda, Cambodia and elsewhere have proven this claim wrong; what IS true is that there is no historical parallel in modern Jewish life for the Holocaust. Iran is not Nazi Germany, today in not the 1930s, Ahmadinejad is not Hitler. And anyone who makes such spurious claims does so for purely partisan political interests and does a grievous injustice to the real suffering of Jewish victims of that era.
Burgess also uses a strange analogy to describe broadening U.S. relations with Lebanon. Speaking in the metaphor of the telenovela, it’s as if Israel is the lover the U.S. knows but Lebanon is the “hot new babe.” He is speaking of the $400 million in military armaments the U.S. provided to strengthen the Lebanese army. Naturally, the IDF worries that this materiel will end up strengthening Hezbollah in its fight against Israel.
When asked about how the disagreement over Israel’s refusal to lengthen its settlement freeze affected U.S. relations he turns to another analogy:
There may be decisions that are made on the political level that diminish military coöperation, but it’s like relations between a husband and wife: relations remain stable, but this doesn’t mean that we agree on everything. Like, for example the issue of how to raise the children…
And to top all this nonsense off he adds an impossibly trite comparison between Israelis and Americans:
Israelis truly are sabras [cactuses], inside they are warm and open. That’s what I love about Israel. It’s truthful and real. In America there is a tendency to be quite superficial [keep in mind this dude lives in Nevada!]. In Israel someone might call you an idiot and cut you off on the road, but here there is more depth, more truthfulness.
What can only wonder what this guy’s been smokin,’ or given that he’s a military officer, drinking.
To prove that Burgess does have some ability to understand the inadequacies of Israeli policy, after a conversation in which he railed about Israeli driving and poor parking habits he liken Israel’s government to a bad driver:
Israel too parks its car in the middle of the roadway at times, but not because it understands [that this is wrong], but rather because it feels that this is the right thing to do. Israel has an attitude: “I will do whatever is necessary to protect myself.” As for consequences, it will worry about those later.
This article was published at Tikun Olam and is reprinted here with the author’s permission