Mark Kirk: First I was for the State Department, Now I Prefer Israel

by Jim Lobe

As I’ve written in the past, I have massive amounts of newspaper, magazine, and other assorted clippings in file cabinets that stretch virtually from one end of the IPS office in the National Press Building to the other. Some of it dates back to 1975, the fateful year I started clipping about international events. While I’ve purged them from time to time over the years, I’m now doing so a bit more indiscriminately in anticipation of at least semi-retirement next year. It’s a sometimes wrenching  process, because each clipping is meticulously underlined, and many of them — there must be tens of thousands at least — actually evoke memories of periods when I thought I understood how the world — or some specific countries — worked.

In any event, as I was going through my “Congress-Demos” in my Iraq file drawer yesterday, I found a little gem of a quote by then-Rep. Mark Kirk from just after the passage of the notorious resolution that gave President George W. Bush the authority to wage war against Iraq. It’s from the October 12, 2002 edition of Congressional Quarterly Weekly:

“Many people who never saw war are quick to urge military actions,” said Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, R-Ill., a Gulf War veteran who supported the resolution. “in my own experience, war has taught me to be the best friend of our State Department, a place where diplomacy is the preferred course of action.”

Not a bad position, even if he did vote for the resolution, as did many Democrats who believed (wrongly) that Bush wouldn’t actually invade Iraq unless and until all diplomatic efforts and UN inspections were exhausted. And, of course, at that time, Colin Powell, who appeared to be trying hard to slow the push toward war that had just been launched in earnest by Cheney & Co. the previous month, was in charge of the State Department — Kirk’s “best friend.”

Now compare his statement back then with those he made in a private call with donors last November 18 just after he announced his intention to introduce amendments to the defense bill that would increase sanctions against Iran as reported by Ali and Eli on the eve of talks between world powers and Tehran that culminated in the Joint Plan of Action. In that call, he complained bitterly about State Department diplomats whose main objective in talking with Iran, he claimed, was “desperately want(ing) a New York Times article saying how great they are.”

“If you see the administration’s negotiating team lined up in these classified briefings, not one of them speaks a word of Farsi or brings any expertise on Iran to the table. If I was going to run a Democratic primary I would definitely hire our current negotiating team. And that would be Kerry and Wendy [Sherman] and the president’s sole qualification for getting on this team is whether you can be a reliable partisan or not.”

Of course, team-member Alan Eyre, the State Department’s Persian-language spokesperson, is so fluent that even Iranians are impressed when they hear him speak, so much so that during the Geneva talks the director of the hard-line Iranian Fars News actually requested a picture with him. In any case, Kirk was apparently particularly upset with a briefing in which he and Sherman tangled, heatedly suggesting that she defer to Israel’s alleged intelligence findings, rather than those provided to her by the US intelligence community, no doubt including the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research:

Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer gave me the collective estimate of Israeli intelligence as to where the Iranians are, and Wendy Sherman said, ‘Don’t look at that. Israeli intelligence is not correct.’ So Wendy Sherman would tell me not to believe Israel’s intelligence service, and I took her on pretty strongly. The message that I gave to her was, ‘If you tell the American people that Israeli intelligence is bad, that’s not gonna be a dog that will hunt very well.’

Well, I guess now-Sen. Mark Kirk’s faith in the State Department has been diminished somehow, but one wonders why. What happened in the 12 years between the time when he considered the institution and its diplomatic skills as his “best friend” and now when it seems he thinks of its leaders as a bunch of partisan, glory-seeking, uninformed, Israeli intelligence-deniers?

Of course, it could be because the State Department is no longer run by Republicans like Powell, but I offered one other possible explanation in a piece I posted on this blog on the same day that Ali and Eli published their piece in Salon that suggested his motivation may relate to campaign finance, specifically the fact that he has received more financial support from PACs associated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) than any other member of Congress during the last 12 years. According to opensecrets.org, “pro-Israel” groups gave Kirk’s campaigns (rounded to nearest $1,000):

$95,000 in 2002

$136,700 in 2004

$315,000 in 2006

$445,000 in 2008

$640,000 in 2010 (when he ran for Senate)

I thank Eli, in particular, for jogging my memory about his and Ali’s findings.

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Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.

SHOW 11 COMMENTS

11 Comments

  1. Mark Kirk thinks the American people would reject a comment by an American official, that questioned Israeli intelligence? Nonsense.

  2. He’ll probably turn up working at one of Adelson’s blackjack tables in 20 years.

  3. If US diplomacy will not end the Iranian nuclear weapons program, Israeli nukes will. The Jewish state will not live under the shadow of an Islamofascist bomb. Perhaps the US has no problem with another far-away nuclear state, albeit did not tolerate a nearby nuclear armed Cuba, Israel cannot abide a nuclear armed state that constantly affirms its determination to eliminate it from “pages of history.”
    So regardless of what the US chooses to believe or not to believe, it is what Israel believes that will in the end determine what happens. Israel will not allow that Iranian bomb to come into existence no matter what the consequences.

  4. Jack says:

    “If US diplomacy will not end the Iranian nuclear weapons program, Israeli nukes will. The Jewish state will not live under the shadow of an Islamofascist bomb.”

    It lives under the “shadow” of an actual Pakistani bomb as we speak. A Muslim regime in India is possible. The Saudis could buy a couple of them and you wouldn’t even know it. No matter what, Israel can’t have absolute security. And it’s not an American task to provide the closest thing to it possible either. Israel has a role in that but if you want us to remain at her side you’re going to have to quit pretending that nothing matters but her interests. You lost six million to the Germans but we have three hundred and twenty million for whom we are responsible and the Israelis are a dangerous, unpredictable ally.

    ” Perhaps the US has no problem with another far-away nuclear state, albeit did not tolerate a nearby nuclear armed Cuba, Israel cannot abide a nuclear armed state that constantly affirms its determination to eliminate it from “pages of history.”

    There is no Iranian nuclear weapons program, only a level of technological accomplishment which might permit a ‘breakout’ within somewhere between one and two years if there weren’t perpetual on-the-scene surveillance. And if I recall correctly Cuba per se was not nuclear armed.

    Our President, Secretary of State and the European negotiators are working within existing law, i.e., without wrecking the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to see to it that no Iranian bomb will come into existence. Netanyahu’s position is hysterical and contrary to Israel’s interests. Yours is worse. A preemptive nuclear attack by Israel against Iran is lunatic. It would ensure Israel’s eventual demise. It would also eventually ensure an Iranian bomb which in effect Israel would have created herself.

    “So regardless of what the US chooses to believe or not to believe, it is what Israel believes that will in the end determine what happens. Israel will not allow that Iranian bomb to come into existence no matter what the consequences.”

    If Israel is going to go it alone “no matter what the consequences”, why should the U.S. support her on an essentially suicidal path when Israel’s could well result in our own? You imagine a Judeo-centric world in which no other country’s national interests have the legitimacy of Israel’s. That’s delusional. So is the size of the Israeli arsenal which displays planning which goes far beyond war-fighting in the Middle East. What’s that all about, Jack, and why should we support it?

  5. The noise about Israel’s disappearance from the map, pages of history, or whatever, do not refer to military action by enemies of Israel. Natural causes. Due ti internal flaws etc etc.

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