The American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies aren’t responding to requests for comment about the role their institutions played in making the case for war in Iraq.
Moreover, it appears they’ve taken steps to remove evidence of their actions from the Internet or outright deny the actions they took in 2002.
FDD was founded in April 2001 as EMET (Hebrew for “truth”) “to provide education to enhance Israel’s image in North America and the public’s understanding of issues affecting Israeli-Arab relations.” Clifford May, its founder, quickly went about pushing for war. In April 2002, he described Iran and Iraq as “terrorist-sponsoring regimes attempting to develop weapons of mass destruction.”
And in January 2002, May wrote, “That Saddam still has weapons of mass destruction cannot be seriously doubted,” in National Review Online.
Both articles are no longer visible on FDD’s website, although they are available on other sites. FDD didn’t just serve as a home base for numerous advocates for the Iraq War, the group took institutional positions advancing false intelligence about Iraq’s alleged WMDs.
A FAQ about FDD, first archived by Archive.org on December 23, 2002, read:
President Bush said he’s going after not only the terrorists but also the regimes that harbor the terrorists. We know Saddam Hussein is making weapons of mass destruction - biological, chemical and nuclear - and remains a serious threat. But other nations that harbor or sponsor terrorists - Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, North Korea, Cuba - also must change their behavior. If we don’t insist on that, we won’t win this war.
The page was removed sometime between February 11, 2003 and April 1, 2003, four months before the U.S. invasion, an action partially justified under the false claims that Saddam Hussein had continued his WMD program.
AIPAC, whose mission includes “Building bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship is an American value we are proud to champion,” also pushed for the war. Later, it vigorously denied that it supported the invasion or lobbied for military action.
In 2015, AIPAC’s spokesman, Marshall Wittmann, assured The New York Times’s Julie Hirschfeld Davis that “AIPAC took no position whatsoever on the Iraq war.”
That same year, AIPAC President Robert A. Cohen issued a lengthy statement claiming that, “Leading up to the start of the Iraq War in March 2003, AIPAC took no position whatsoever, nor did we lobby on the issue.”
But AIPAC did take positions and provided talking points for its members to lobby members of Congress on the Iraq War. It removed evidence of these activities from its website but Archive.org has the evidence, showing that AIPAC’s leadership is misleading journalists about support the group provided for the war and the bad intelligence justifying military action.
A “briefing book” for AIPAC’s membership and Congressional offices - viewable on Archive.org in snapshots from December, 22, 2001, until December 2004 — the period in which the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution was approved by Congress and the Iraq War began — argued in favor of regime change in Baghdad, in apparent contradiction to what AIPAC’s leadership claims.
The document said, “As long as Saddam Hussein is in power, any containment of Iraq will only be temporary until the next crisis or act of aggression.”
That’s not the only example of AIPAC appearing to push for war.
AIPAC’s newsletter, Near East Report, led with a lengthy “editor’s comments” on October 7, 2002, repeating the George W. Bush administration’s erroneous claim that Saddam Hussein was in league with al Qaeda and is “maintaining contact with the vile perpetrators of 9/11.”
The newsletter has been removed from AIPAC’s website but is accessible on Archive.org.
The 9/11 Commission Report concluded:
… to date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.
AIPAC and FDD aren’t alone in trying to memory-hole their role in pushing for a war justified on falsehoods and costing over 300,000 American and Iraqi lives from direct war violence in Iraq. Many individuals are keeping their heads down as the 20th anniversary of the war is observed, hoping to avoid accountability for the disastrous errors of judgment to which they contributed. For FDD and AIPAC, that appears to mean not responding to requests for comment about their websites’ being cleansed of falsehoods about Saddam Hussein’s weapons program and cheerleading of a war so disastrous that generations of Iraqis and Americans will bear the financial and human consequences.