columnU.S.-Israel Relations

Lindsey Graham lets Lloyd Austin have it

“This is Hiroshima and Nagasaki on steroids,” the South Carolina senator told the defense secretary about Israel’s need to defeat Hamas in Gaza.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) at the president's residence in Jerusalem, Jan. 4, 2014. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) at the president's residence in Jerusalem, Jan. 4, 2014. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Ruthie Blum. Credit: Courtesy.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, an author and award-winning columnist, is a former adviser at the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In an interview Wednesday night on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront,” U.S. President Joe Biden confirmed what Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had announced hours earlier: that the administration in Washington was withholding an arms shipment to Israel as leverage against an operation in Rafah.

“We’re not walking away from Israel’s security,” he said. “We’re walking away from Israel’s ability to wage war in those areas. … We’re going to continue to make sure Israel is secure in terms of Iron Dome and their ability to respond to attacks that came out of the Middle East recently, but it’s, it’s just wrong. We’re not going to—we’re not going to supply the weapons and artillery shells.”

In other words, he’ll provide Israelis huddling in bomb shelters the extra umbrella against Hamas, Hezbollah and Iranian missiles, but not the ability to defeat the terrorists holed up with hostages and surrounded by Palestinian human shields.

Biden could have acknowledged the horrifying act of betrayal at least a week beforehand. This, at least, would have spared speculation about whether leaks by “senior American officials” on the hostile move were reliable.

But he purposely waited until after delivering his Yom HaShoah speech on Tuesday during the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s annual Days of Remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.

In an act of despicable disingenuousness, Biden criticized the antisemitic campus demonstrations—courtesy of the radical wing of his party—and bemoaned: “Not 75 years later, but just seven and a half months later, and people are already forgetting, they’re already forgetting, that Hamas unleashed this terror that it was Hamas that brutalized Israelis, that it was Hamas that took and continues to hold hostages. I have not forgotten, nor have you. And we will not forget.”

His remarks elicited praise from Jews at home and abroad clinging to hope that America wasn’t actually abandoning them to the “Go Back to Poland” protesters. The fact that he omitted mention of “Islamophobia” in the context was noted positively, as well.

The latter should have been a clue that he was up to no good, however. As would become clear within less than 24 hours, the accolades had been premature and worse than ill-deserved.

Nor was his forcing Austin to break the news accidental. Indeed, it was the defense secretary who had to face the music, which—thanks to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)—was blaring.

At a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee on the 2025 Defense Department budget, Graham let loose on the defense secretary. Asking whether, in hindsight, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII had been warranted, the Pentagon chief squirmed.

“Well, you know, I think the leadership was interested in curtailing…”—he trailed off, before being interrupted by Graham’s return fire.

“What’s Israel interested in?” the senior senator from South Carolina bellowed. “Do you believe Iran really wants to kill all the Jews if they could? The Iranian regime. Do you believe Hamas is serious when they say we’ll keep doing it over and over again? Do you agree that they will if they can?”

Sheepishly, Austin answered, “I do.”

“OK. Alright,” Graham continued. “Do you believe that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization also bent on the destruction of the Jewish state?”

Leaving out the bit about the Jewish state, Austin retorted, “Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.” Graham responded with a one-two punch.

“OK, so Israel’s been hit in the last few weeks by Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, dedicated to their destruction,” he said. “And you’re telling me you’re going to tell them how to fight the war, and what they can and can’t use when everybody around them wants to kill all the Jews? And you’re telling me that if we withhold weapons in this fight—the existential fight for the life of the Jewish state—it won’t send the wrong signal?”

Graham concluded his diatribe by declaring, “If we stop weapons necessary to destroy the enemies of the State of Israel at a time of great peril, we will pay a price. This is obscene. It is absurd. Give Israel what they need to fight the war. They can’t afford to lose. This is Hiroshima and Nagasaki on steroids.”

The video of Graham’s rebuke of Biden’s boys for their appalling treatment of a crucial American ally battling the hostage-holding perpetrators of the Oct. 7 massacre—proxies of the Islamic Republic who vow to repeat their atrocities “again and again and again”—went viral. And rightly so.

But some of the Israelis cheering for Graham have expressed sympathy for Austin. They believe he’s actually far more hawkish than Biden, but has to do the boss’s bidding.

This is only partly true. Less than a week after the Black Sabbath on which Hamas barbarians slaughtered 1,200 people in southern Israel, Austin arrived in the country.

“I wanted to be here in person,” he told reporters. “There is something personal here. Our support for Israel is ironclad. What a friend needs to do sometimes is just show up.”

During his visit, the commander who led the campaign to defeat the Islamic State told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that what Hamas did on Oct. 7 was “worse than ISIS.” It was a relief to hear such an expert acknowledge the severity of Israel’s experience at the hands of the group ruling Gaza.

But because of the show of friendship, observers seemed to have missed the gist of Austin’s message. While urging the world to condemn Hamas, he emphasized that the terrorist group didn’t represent the Palestinian people or their aspirations for “freedom and security.”

As if that weren’t revealing enough, he said that despite the justice of Israel’s military operation against Hamas, “it is time for resolve and not for revenge,” adding that democracies need to abide by the rule of law and try to avoid civilian casualties.

So, let’s not cry any tears for Austin. Graham certainly didn’t, and we’re grateful for that.

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