Grant F. Smith, director ofÂ IRMEP, discusses the successful National Summit to Reassess the U.S. – Israel “Special Relationship” in Washington last weekend.
Scott Horton (SH):Â _Welcome back to the show, I”m Scott Horton and it looks like I just missed Jonathan Landay, we’ll see if we can get him on the show tomorrow.
Our next guest is Grant F Smith for the Institute for Research Middle East Policy and he is the author of a great many books, including: Divert: Numec, Zalman Shapiro and the Diversion of US Weapons Grade Uranium into the Israeli Nuclear Weapons Program.
That is the latest, welcome back to the show Grant, how are you doing?
Grant Smith (GS):Â Hey Scott, doing fine, a little tired, I suspect you are too?
SH:Â Nah, I’m fine man
GS:Â Covering? I mean, that’s good!
SH:Â Thanks very much for inviting me out to this conference it was The National Summit To Reassess The US-Israel Special Relationship. It took place at the National Press Club on Friday – put on by your group and Phil Geraldi’s group – The Council For The National Interest and If American’s Knew, and The Washington Report for Middle Eastern Affairs, am I leaving anyone out?
GS:Â No, you got them all, it was four organizations, all collaborating and pulling together as many good speakers and panels as we could possibly fit into a short slot, and we all thank you for coming out and moderating what was probably the most difficult panel of them all, so that was good. And you also kicked off the event.
SH:Â Yeah, and I had a great time doing it, and I really appreciate y’all having me out. I have my list here, I jotted down, I’m not going to go through it all but I think it is probably a dozen people, who have been long distance radio acquaintances/friends of mine for many years now that I was finally able to meet in person. And I got to see you and Gareth Porter and Karen Kwiatkowski and Ray McGovern again.
GS:Â That was part of the point, the idea was that this wasn’t just a bunch of people speaking, but that people would come and talk to each other and have a bit more personal contact than we normally do in this digital age.
I feel the same way you do. There are people that I’ve never met but I’ve known their work for many, many years and then suddenly there they are all in the same room. And looking around I thought it was a fantastic opportunity – when we weren’t rushing to get the next presentation up – to go and talk to people.
SH:Â Yeah that is the joke I should have cracked at the beginning – if you want to know about my show, I basically interview all of the people you’re going to see give speeches today. There were a few people I’ve never talked to before up there, but, it was sort of like a ‘best of’, of The Scott Horton Show only live
GS:Â Exactly, exactly. It was a reunion for you in some respects and I felt we almost should have kicked it off by saying ‘the reason there is no wi-fi here is, we’re not going to do any social media, we’re going to go back to socializing. We’re going to talk to each other and look at each others names tags and connect names to faces and work’. It was a really interesting experience, even outside the conference hall, people were getting in to some intense discussions.
SH:Â Right. Okay, so next talk about the coverage. Of course C-Span covered the whole thing live, was it on C-Span, or two or three, it doesn’t really matter?
GS:Â It matters, it was on C-Span 3. As far as I can tell they didn’t do a live radio broadcast, but they wouldn’t normally do something that long, live on C-Span radio which is only on really here in Washington and the surrounding area.
But since then it’s been split into segments – it was on C-Span 2 and C-Span as well. I particularly enjoyed yesterday on C-Span they had Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech and then they segued directly to Paul Pillar’s point by point debunking of virtually everything that the Prime Minister had just said at AIPAC.
GS:Â And that is the reason we have mass media right there, is to get both sides of the story like that, and quite frankly I’ve never seen anything so valuable and timely spliced together like that.
SH:Â Well you know, I’ve long respected Brian Lamb and the whole C-Span project because I think they really try to have a professional agnostic attitude about opinions on these political issues – the qualification for them is, ‘If this is a big and legitimate enough’, y’know American participation in the American Democratic process, they point their cameras at it.
They try very hard I think, not to favor. Of course they have their mainstream biases because, y’know they live in DC and they are the creatures of that kind of process but they always seem to have been very fair minded. I mean for example even showing up, and especially like you’re saying, ‘Well you know earlier there was this CIA guy who gave a speech that kind of disagreed with that, let’s go ahead and play that’, y’know, I think they have that sort of easy going attitude about it that makes that kind of thing possible.
GS:Â Well, I think you’re right to a certain extent. Typically though you are getting to see the highly professional logo wall back drop presentations coming from a very limited point of view that has got a lot of financing, and then the other guys are in the back room of a bookstore with a scruffy podium and maybe a little less polish, so it doesn’t always have the effect, and quite frankly not that many of them – they broadcast a lot of think tank gatherings here in Washington and most of the local radio stations rarely have a lot of content about foreign policy.
It’s always the same people and the same viewpoints. They rarely mix up their journalist panels. So C-Span does a good job but between the saturation of the think tanks that are already here, and the relative rarity of this type of event ,people don’t see too much of this.
SH:Â Right. Well, we just have to compete with them better. We need more IRMEPs and CNI’s because really the great success of the neo-conservative movement was to not just occupy all the major editorial boards, there is at least one good reliable neo-con on every editorial board on every major paper. A lot of these think tanks exist only in Bill Kristol’s desk draw, but there is a dozen of them and they create this wonderful echo chamber for whatever Netanyahu wants.
GS: Yeah, I think people are getting wise to that. You mentioned that take over, Scott McConnell’s presentation about the gate keeping, it was very illuminating and y’know it was very detailed but it provided the same snapshot of gate keeping and limiting debates that you also find on the left as well.
And those were the two panels, again on the segment that you moderated, panel five, they really got into some no holds barred looks at what has happened.Â One of the things that I think worked well was that people had to get to the point. Something that happens a lot in this sort of discussion, is that people think they have a lot of time to make their point and we made sure they didn’t have that, so that they would get right to the point. And everybody did.
I wanted to mention that atÂ www.natsummit.orgÂ we’ve got half of the audio up now in mp3 formats so that people can download individual segments and listen to them because that is not available at C-Span. We should have the rest of them up by later today so people can go in and download them.
SH:Â Will all the different speeches be up on youtube at some point too?
GS:Â Yes, one of the things again that C-Span doesn’t do, that we are doing is putting the slides under the presentations so that people can treat it like a classroom. At some point embeddable video, which is not currently the case, but embeddable video by the end of the week or weekend should be available.
SH:Â Well, I think it was a great success you had a great list of people and we are going to talk about that when we get back. It was a packed house, it was absolutely a successful event. And I want to talk to you about some of the different ways, what maybe we could have accomplished and what we can accomplish going forward from here.
I’m with Grant Smith from the Institute For Research Middle East PolicyÂ www.irmep.com.
SH: Alright welcome back to the show, I’m talking to Grant F Smith the author of Divert!: about the Israeli’s stealing weapons grade uranium from America to make their nuclear weapons to threaten the rest of the Middle East with. And he’s the director of IRMEP – the Institute for Research Middle East Policy – what he does, is he goes to court and he makes the Government give him documents about the history of Israeli Policy in the United States.
Now Grant, Phil Geraldi and Alison Weir put together this great thing that took place Friday in Washington DC at the National Press Club, it was the National Summit To Reassess the US-Israel Special Relationship. There was a great list of speakers and a wide variety of topics covered – historical and contemporary and the lobby here and the Palestinians there, and Iran’s alleged so-called studies documents on that forged laptop and all of that, it was really something else.
Why don’t you go through and tell us who was your favorite speaker, is that unfair?
GS:Â I couldn’t name a favorite. You know one of the fallacies, that people who work in this field know a lot about everything, well I felt pretty stupid listening to a lot of these speakers, because I had never heard of some of the really fine points. I was sitting in the back listening and learning as much as anybody else, but there were someÂ surprising points and I can’t even really name a favorite, I liked them all.
SH:_So let’s go through chronological order then, let’s choose some highlights, we can’t talk about each and every speaker. Give people a reason to want to go and look this thing up onÂ www.c-span.orgÂ and onÂ www.natsummit.org.
GS:Â Okay sure, actually, let’s go in reverse chronological order because I thought the anchoring panel, the intelligence panel – Paul Pillar did an absolutely stunning job. He went through every single one of these false narratives that is coming out of Israel about securing the eastern frontier and all of these Iranian threats, and he basically tore them all apart while explaining what the US ally really would be like and how it is in Israel’s interest to get behind the negotiations. I have read his work but I have never heard him speak live and that was fascinating.
Ray McGovern, very interesting, he is always good on your show. He did bring in some hard points about how assassinations in Gaza affected the fatally flawed and ridiculous US invasion of Iraq to an even harsher degree.
And of course Philip Geraldi at the end making a very sincere and abbreviated summary that he doesn’t believe that the US doesn’t have an ally in Israel. So I thought that was extremely powerful that entire segment.
Right before that was your panel – you had Jeff Blankfort talking about how a lot of people have been mesmerized by a very limited analysis of Israel as it fits into the US National Security and defense policy.
You had Allan Brownfeld who is a very eloquent speaker from the American Committee on Judaism talking about how Zionism has involved inside social welfare systems.
Justin Raimondo who did this really interesting recap on the Israel Lobby and how it has come 180 degrees. Scott McConnell who we talked about earlier, and then of course, Philip Weiss.
SH:Â Isn’t he cool? I love that guy
GS: He is so cool – blogging, hauling out his six-guns. Most bloggers, you think of them as being people who are excelling behind a keyboard but he is a very interesting speaker so that was a treat.
Before that then we have a history panel where Stephen Walt not only recapped what he said, along with John Mearsheimer, and what he didn’t say in his book, which is just as important but he was followed by Geoffrey Wawro who has this fascinating book called ‘Quicksand’, which explains the US position in the Middle East right now. Very eloquent, he had a lot of terrain to cover and he did it really well.
SH: Yeah that was a really interesting speech there, that was the one that talked about the history, the founding of Israel from what he learned going through all of the formerly secret documents of the Americans and the British on the issue at the time and what they were saying to each other about it.
GS: Right and he didn’t have time to go in to some of the treatment of his book, I mean that is a Penguin book, people should buy ‘Quicksand’ and read it. It hasn’t gotten the reception that it should have got.
And then of course John Quigley going over international law and how the US support for Israel’s ongoing occupation is damaging it’s credibility. And Alison Weir talking about her research, so that was another longer panel, very historically based and of course before that, was probably the best example of a panel moving at light speed. I think everybody hit the mark of 13 minutes, in fact one of the speakers even said, ‘Hey I’ve done 13 seconds early”, like we were going to give him a prize (laughs)
But it was about whether about the special relationship transcends the rule of law, and so I went through basically the things I talk about on your show, how a lot of espionage cases, foreign agent cases, smuggling cases, just were never prosecuted and what was going on inside the justice department.
Ernie Gallo who was on the USS Liberty, talked about the treatment of that whole episode
SH:Â Man, everybody, you gotta see that one! Gallo the USS Liberty survivor
GS: Â Everyone stood up and applauded, he got a standing ovation after he was done with his presentation
SH:Â And then what’s his name, the FBI agent from the Counter Intelligence Division who put together the case against Jonathan Pollard, I don’t know how you got him to show up at this thing, but that was just incredible.
GS:Â Yeah, that was Spike Bowman, he talked about the Jonathan Pollard affair. Although I didn’t quite get through my thick head, I never understood that he was the one who wrote Caspar Weinberger’s memorandum in aid of sentencing that got Jonathan Pollard the life sentence.
And I still didn’t quite understand that until I realized at the end of the panel, that I’ve been trying to get his document de-classified for ten years, and I followed up on that with him, and he said, ‘Don’t ever expect to see the classified portion’, so it was really interesting to have somebody sitting there saying, ‘yeah we know about the Freedom of Information Act and we know how to write these things so that some portions will never be de-classified’, so I learned a lot there.
SH:Â He really did explain that didn’t he, in plain English
GS:Â Right, and he wasn’t condescending, it was just really straight
SH:Â We’re really short on time, but I hope people are rushing over to C-Span to find this thing and bookmarking it. It’s the National Summit to Reassess The US-Israel Special Relationship.
You will be able to find audio atÂ www.natsummit.orgÂ and there is video atÂ www.c-span.orgÂ and soon it will be coming out on youtube and all of that.
But I wanted to ask you, here at the very end, what do you think about the future, what do you think this conference means in the scheme of things as far as advancing this topic, of having an open and honest political debate, just like we do have, on virtually every other issue in this country really, no matter how controversial. I mean we even talk about the Government selling drugs and stuff like that sometimes, but this is sort of a first. Did we break some ice?
GS:Â I think so, I think there is a role and a natural space in the same week that AIPAC has it’s annual policy conference for another lose coalition of individuals to come together – people who don’t necessarily agree on everything – but to come together and talk about what is happening for the rest of the United States and the rest of the interests.
I think it is something a lot of people are interested in. We’re still gathering information and feedback, the survey of opinions about this is not complete. So I will be asking you what you think of it, and I’ll be asking others.
Clearly there is a place for everybody who feels as though we’re on the wrong track and that is a number that is getting bigger everyday, to gather and hear some briefings and then be able to self-organize and move ahead after. I see the promise that this will not be the last one.
SH:Â Right, I think the thing went really well and y’know I mean it’s silly, Stephen Walt pointed this out earlier on the show, Stephen Walt said, ‘Oh yeah, they called us Nazis after we wrote our article, and then we got a book deal’, so even then, as harsh as it was, the attacks on Walt and Mearsheimer that whole frenzy against them, it didn’t’ really stand.
I think they helped move the ball forward a lot and then with this, I mean come on, all we are talking about is honest debate about our country and their country and whatever – nobody is bigots here, this isn’t about any nefarious thing. This is just Americans participating in the democratic process exactly like is supposed to be the deal.
Thanks Grant, I really appreciate it.
GS:Â _Thanks Scott