by Eli Clifton
The people who helped lay the groundwork for the war in Iraq have a favorite candidate for today’s midterm election, and that candidate is Rep. Tom Cotton (R) from Arkansas’ 4th congressional district, who is challenging Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) for his Senate seat.
According to newly released FEC filings, Cotton received $960,250 in supportive campaign advertising in the last month from the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), a right-wing group headed by the neoconservative pundit, Bill Kristol, who infamously predicted that the Iraq war would last two months. At its inception, the ECI was based out of the same Washington office as the Committee of the Liberation of Iraq, a pressure group that lobbied for the 2003 invasion.
The credibility of Kristol and his neoconservative colleagues was seriously put into question after it was revealed that the war they lobbied for since the time of the Clinton administration failed to turn up weapons of mass destruction.
Yet Cotton has received the endorsement of the neoconservative fringe of the Republican Party, earning him a gushing profile from Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin before he even began his term as a freshman congressman in January of last year.
In that profile, Cotton made clear that he supported the hawkish foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration, offering a hodge-podge of buzzwords to bolster his neoconservative credentials with the Post’s “Right Turn” columnist. Cotton, as reported by Rubin, said:
What I used to say in the campaign was, ‘You may be tired of war, but war is not tired of you.’ There are evil people in the world who would do evil things.” Because of questions about U.S. resolve, he pointed out, “Certain Middle East countries are hedging and edging closer to Iran.” He said, “It’s important to remind the American people why we’re still engaged, [to] still maintain force projection, stand with Israel … because it is not something they experience firsthand. They experience the economy, but they don’t experience Gaza or Libya or Afghanistan.”
Cotton’s hawkishness even led him to act ahead of his own party when he tried to introduce an amendment to the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013, which would “automatically” levy sentences of up to 20 years on violators of US sanctions against Iran.
That punishment would have extended to “a spouse and any relative, to the third degree” of the sanctions violator, including, Cotton clarified, “parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids.” Cotton explained during a markup hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that “there would be no investigation” because “if the prime malefactor of the family is identified as on the list for sanctions, then everyone within their family would automatically come within the sanctions regime as well.”
“It’d be very hard to demonstrate and investigate to conclusive proof,” he said.
The amendment was withdrawn after members of the committee expressed concern that it violated the Fifth Amendment, which protects American citizens against unfair treatment in legal processes and guarantees defendants due process rights. Yet Cotton has promised that he is “committed to the policy” and is “working with allies to include the amendment at other committees of jurisdiction in the Senate.”
Cotton’s proposal of an amendment that would violate the Fifth Amendment and his promise to Americans that “war is not tired of you” has apparently won him the financial support of hawkish advocacy groups like the Emergency Committee for Israel. And, in a rare turn for the ECI’s long history of backing hawkish but losing campaigns, they may be supporting a front-runner. Cotton is leading by 7-points in the latest polls. By the end of today he may be the new face of the neoconservative foreign policy establishment in the Senate.
Photo: Rep. Tom Cotton speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Credit: Gage Skidmore