Pete McCloskey, Anti-War Congressman and Israel Lobby Critic, Dies at 96

Pete McCloskey, a former California Congressman, opposed the Vietnam War and challenged the Israel lobby's influence on US policy. He lost his seat in 1982 due to his controversial positions, but continued to advocate for Middle East justice after leaving politics.

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Pete McCloskey, Anti-War Congressman and Israel Lobby Critic, Dies at 96

Pete McCloskey, Anti-War Congressman and Israel Lobby Critic, Dies at 96

Pete McCloskey, a former Republican Congressman from California known for his principled opposition to the Vietnam War and his challenges to the powerful Israel lobby, passed away on Sunday at the age of 96.

Born on September 29, 1927, in San Bernardino, California, McCloskey served in the Navy and later the Marines, where he led a rifle platoon in a bayonet charge during the Korean War, earning the Navy Cross, Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts. Inspired by President John F. Kennedy's 1963 speech on civil rights, McCloskey entered politics and won a special election in 1967 to represent California's San Mateo district in Congress.

Why this matters: McCloskey's legacy serves as a reminder of the importance of holding elected officials accountable for their actions, particularly in times of war and conflict. His courage in challenging the powerful Israel lobby also highlights the need for a more balanced and nuanced approach to Middle East policy.

During his seven terms in the House, McCloskey became the first Republican to call for a repeal of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and demand President Richard Nixon's impeachment over the Vietnam War. "To talk as the president does of winding down the war while he is expanding the use of air power is a deliberate deception," McCloskey said of Nixon's war policy.

In the early 1980s, McCloskey began criticizing the immense power and influence of the Israel lobby on U.S. foreign policy. He supported Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat and advocated for implementing U.N. resolutions declaring Israeli settlements illegal. McCloskey even proposed withholding $150 million in U.S. aid to pressure Israel to remove the settlements, but faced intense backlash from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

"Until Congress is willing to stand up to Israel every time that we step back and deliver them F-16s or accept the bombing of downtown Beirut, we will accept whatever they want to do," McCloskey said of Israel's influence on U.S. policy. He lost his congressional seat in 1982, partly due to his controversial positions on Israel.

After leaving politics, McCloskey continued to oppose the Israel lobby's influence. He co-founded the Council for the National Interest with former Illinois congressman Paul Findley, seeking justice on Middle East issues. McCloskey's legacy is one of courage in challenging powerful interests and opposing unjust wars, even when it meant risking his own political career.

Key Takeaways

  • Pete McCloskey, a former CA Congressman, died at 96, known for opposing the Vietnam War and challenging the Israel lobby.
  • McCloskey was a decorated war hero, earning the Navy Cross, Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts in the Korean War.
  • He was the first Republican to call for Nixon's impeachment over the Vietnam War and demanded a repeal of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
  • McCloskey criticized the Israel lobby's influence on US foreign policy, supporting Palestinian rights and advocating for UN resolutions.
  • He co-founded the Council for the National Interest to promote justice on Middle East issues, risking his political career for his principles.