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Reichstag on the Potomac or ‘Planet of the Apes’?

There are some famous film clips of the US Congress that stand the test of time. One is of attorney Joseph Welch as s subpoenaed witness denouncing the redbaiting charlatan Sen. Joseph McCarthy during his hearings into alleged Communist infiltration of the military and the government. “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” Welsh says angrily, as the senator from Wisconsin uses lies and innuendo to assassinate the character of a junior member of Welch’s law firm who had shown the temerity to join the “commie front” National Lawyers Guild as a Harvard Law student.

Another such famous clip was the 1973 testimony of White House lawyer John Dean admitting to his knowledge of the criminal acts of President Nixon and his key advisors in the so-called Watergate scandal that led to Nixon’s impeachment and resignation from office.

A third unforgettable clip shows when Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), in a packed Senate hearing room, read out the text of the Pentagon Papers, which the Nixon administration was trying to get a federal court block the New York Times from publishing.

Now to that list we must add to that the appalling video of a foreign leader, invited as a speaker by the Republican leadership of the House, denouncing the current negotiations of the State Department aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and in effect telling the US it should prepare instead to launch a catastrophic war against Iran. Whatever one may think of President Obama, the image of a packed House chamber, filled with slathering, mindlessly applauding Republicans and a majority of the feckless Democrats of the House and Senate (only 40 Democrats chose to boycott this treasonous address by Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu), leaping up and down and clapping to Netanyahu’s verbal garbage, is shocking. It also exposes the extent to which a tiny apartheid nation based upon a tribal ethic and a long history of genocide, has hijacked the foreign policy of the world’s most powerful country.

As Uri Avnery, an Israeli peace advocate and former Knesset member, writes in his article titled “The Speech,” the unseemly image of Republican members of Congress leaping up as one and hooting rabidly at almost every line uttered by Netanyahu reminded him of nothing so much as the Reichstag members in the 1930s leaping up to cheer and salute each applause line of Chancellor Adolph Hitler.

Years or decades from now, if the US still exists as even a nominal democracy, this video will surely shock any citizens who view it every bit as much as do the above listed iconic videos.

It is evident that the invitation by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to Prime Minister Netanyahu was meant as a deliberate slap at President Obama, and a brazenly partisan attempt by Republicans in Congress to undermine the nuclear treaty the US, along with five other leading nations (France, the UK, Russia, China and Germany) have been trying to negotiate with Iran. But the inability of Democrats to respond by simply boycotting the staged event demonstrates the truth of the charge made by Avneri and many others that Israel, through its US lobbying arm, the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), effectively owns the Congress of the United States.

It is hard to imagine another allegedly democratic country in the world with a politics so dysfunctional that such a thing — inviting a foreign political leader to address the nation’s legislature to criticize the actions of the country’s own government and head of state –could happen.

It bodes ill for America’s future if this kind of brazen manipulation of US politics and US foreign policy in the interest of ginning up a catastrophic war can be successful in substituting the perceived interests of some small and belligerent foreign state like Israel (or of one political faction within that state) for the interests of this nation itself.

One might hope that the long-term impact of this outrage would be an immediate weakening of Israeli influence over US politics. This would surely be the case if it were to lead to revulsion by average Americans at this gross interference in US affairs by a foreign leader. But given the number of gutless Democrats who, instead of boycotting Netanyahu’s talk en masse, slithered quietly into the House Chamber to listen to the Israeli leader’s bluster and lies, fearful that staying away could make them targets of AIPAC’s wrath in the next election, this outcome seems unlikely.

Unless the Obama administration — not one known for its intestinal fortitude — moves ahead and reaches a mutually acceptable nuclear deal with Iran in short order, there is a real risk that Israel could get its way, with the US instead switching to a default war footing and an attack on Iran’s (completely legal!) nuclear processing facilities. The results of such an illegal war on Iran — a country of 70 million people — are impossible to predict. These could range from a wider war, including nuclear weapons (Iran is backed by both Russia and China, and — who knows? — may, as a fail-safe measure, have even quietly obtained already functioning nuclear weapons on the black market to defend itself if attacked, while Israel itself is known to have over 200 nuclear weapons), to asymmetrical attacks on US interests around the globe and within the US itself. The impact of even a limited conflict with Iran on the US and global economy would be disastrous, with most experts predicting that it would shut down the Persian Gulf to oil tanker traffic indefinitely, raising oil prices astronomically.

And don’t forget that Israel has some 200 nuclear weapons itself – a point that Netanyahu carefully failed to mention, and that the sycophantic US corporate media obligingly also ignored, though clearly the easiest way to get Iran to shut down its nuclear fuel enrichment program would be for Israel and Iran to sign onto a program making the Middle East a nuclear-free zone – and for Israel to stop calling for a war on Iran.

Comparisons to Hitler and the Nazis are not to be made lightly of course, but when we see a whole legislative chamber filled with ignorant, hooting political yahoos calling for a rejection of negotiations with Iran and for a commitment to bomb that country if its leaders don’t simply cave in and unilaterally dismantle their nuclear enrichment program, it’s time to admit that we are witnessing the ugly reality of fascism. Either that or real-life version of “Planet of the Apes,” that Pierre Boulle short story in which the ape legislature features hooting representatives swinging from the chandeliers. The only odd thing about the Netanyahu speech as a farcical replay of Hitler’s address to the Reichstag is that this time the speaker being cheered isn’t this country’s Supreme Leader. It’s the leader of a tiny country half a world away.

And we have a video to prove it.

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