The Middle East Connectionrnby Arthur E. RowsernPat Buchanan set off political sparks during the 1992 primariesrnwith his charge that President Bush was allowingrnforeign agents to run his reelection campaign. Ross Perot laterrnfanned the sparks into a prairie fire with accusations thatrnformer government officials earn $25,000 and $30,000 arnmonth representing foreign interests. Bill Clinton joined inrnwith a campaign blast at “high-priced lobbyists and Washingtonrninfluence peddlers.”rnRarely had this inside-the-beltway issue drawn such a stir inrna presidential campaign. But it did not take long for thernflames of revulsion to flicker and fade. The main targets ofrncriticism, Charles Black and James Lake, remained as officialsrnin Bush’s campaign. Clinton’s staff also included Americansrnwho had lobbied for foreign interests, and he named arnfew to high positions in his administration even while issuingrnorders to tighten control over foreign lobbying.rnIn reality, no President or Congress has been able to avoidrnworking with lobbyists if only because of their knowledge ofrngovernment and their ability to get things done in Washington,rnhideed, lobbying is an entirely legitimate form of freernspeech in a democracy. “The real issue,” says Pat Choate inrnhis book Agents of Influence, “is whether the manipulationrnof America’s political and economic system by . . . foreignrninterests has reached the point that it threatens our nationalrnsovereignty and our future.” He might have added worldrnpeace.rnArthur E. Rowse, a freelance writer in Washington, D.C., wasrnformerly with the Washington Post and U.S. News & WorldrnReport. An article of his on political campaignrncontributions (The Progressive, May 1992) was selectedrnas one of “the most censored stories of 1992” and will bernpublished by Shelburne Press in a book entitled Censored.rnMany of those who represent foreign firms and governmentsrnmake an effort to comply with the Foreign Agents RegistrationrnAct requiring disclosure of certain information. Butrnthe law is weak and “ignored every day of the week,” accordingrnto Jack O’Dwyer, publisher of a newsletter on foreign lobbying.rnAs a result, it is impossible for anyone to get a clear picture ofrnthe impact of such influence on American government andrnpublic opinion.rnNot all foreign representatives pose the threat cited byrnChoate. Most are concerned only with such matters as seekingrnfinancial aid and improving a country’s trade or publicrnimage in the United States. But others go far beyond thisrnpoint, working largely in secret to alter public opinion andrngovernment policy on matters as vital as war and peace. Takernthe Persian Culf crisis, for example. In the five months betweenrnIraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the first bombing runs,rnfew Americans were aware of all the foreign interests in Washingtonrntrying to get American troops into battle without waitingrnto see if trade sanctions would work. One of the mostrninfluential forces was Hill & Knowlton, the nation’s largestrnpublic relations firm. Another was a mysterious organizationrndedicated to promoting Israeli interests known as the AmericanrnIsrael Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Though neitherrncalls itself a foreign lobby, both use large sums of moneyrnto influence public officials on behalf of other countries, thernessence of foreign lobbying. And they both have enjoyedrnconsiderable success, largely beyond sight of the news media.rnIn fact, it was not until long after the Persian Gulf War beganrnthat some of the secret manipulations leading up to it Isecamernvisible.rnIn the case of Hill & Knowlton, the p.r. campaign it eonductedrnfor the Kuwaitis—in the name of a front group calledrn”Citizens for a Free Kuwait”—turned out to be one of thern24/CHRONICLESrnrnrn