House Candidate Faces Attack Ads From Pro-Israel Groups

John Hostettler
John Hostettler | Image by Gage Skidmore/Flickr

A Republican Party primary battle in Indiana has garnered national interest for pitting the party’s current establishment against the House district’s former representative, whose messaging about freedom and faithfulness to the Constitution is experiencing a political revival.

The battle for Indiana’s 8th Congressional District has nine Republican candidates, but there are two generally recognized frontrunners likely familiar to the state’s voters: Mark Messmer, a current state senator, and former Rep. John Hostettler, who swept in with the Newt Gingrich-led Republican takeover of Congress in 1995 and held the seat until 2007.

During that time, Hostettler was among the most anti-war members of the House Republican Conference, being one of only six of his party to vote against authorization of the Iraq War. What gives this year’s race its national significance is that the former congressman wrote a book after he left office in which he claimed the increasingly unpopular Iraq War was fought partly in the interest of Israel.

Hostettler’s views regarding Israel’s role in the war that resulted in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein have drawn the attention of two ostensibly pro-Israel political groups who are spending unprecedented amounts of money in the primary battle to attack the former congressman for allegedly harboring anti-Israel bias.

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) announced earlier this month that it was launching a $1 million ad campaign “committed to ensuring [Hostettler] does not get back to Congress,” per a statement by RJC CEO Matt Brooks.

Brooks claimed RJC was taking action because “Hostettler has consistently opposed vital aid to Israel, trafficked antisemitic conspiracy theories, and voted against a 2000 resolution which supported Israel and condemned Palestinian leadership over the violence of the second Intifada.”

Some of those funds have already been spent on ads supporting Messmer.

United Democracy Project, which is the super PAC of the lobbying group American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, has also been airing an attack ad against Hostettler. The 30-second spot condemns him for voting against military aid to Israel and claims keeping him out of Congress is especially important in light of the October 7 attack by Hamas terrorists and its consequent war.

Hostettler’s critics claim that his anti-war views are actually anti-Israel and could be construed as antisemitic. Still, he is hardly alone in his criticism of the country regarded by many as America’s closest ally in the Middle East. Many critics of the current war have for years claimed that Israeli leaders openly campaigned for the United States and its allies to invade Iraq.

As Hostettler explained when he recently spoke with The Dallas Express, he believes a crucial part of his job is asking tough questions about whether a course of action is good for the United States.

“When I served my first tenure in the House of Representatives, I served in the interest of the United States and the United States Constitution, and I had no intention of serving in the interests of a foreign country,” he said. “Much of this negative campaigning seems to stem from my 2008 book, Nothing for the Nation: Who Got What Out of Iraq.”

When DX reached out to the RJC for the proof that Hostettler “trafficked” in antisemitic conspiracy theories, RJC national political and communications director Sam Markstein pointed to a 2008 review of Hostettler’s book by then-Anti-Defamation League national director Abe Foxman.

In that review, Foxman summarized his take on Hostettler’s argument:

“Individuals in government, who always have Jewish surnames and Israeli connections, provided crucial intelligence on Iraq and were concerned not with the American republic but with Israel’s security.”

Foxman said Hostettler’s reasoning was similar to that of academics John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt in their book 2007 The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.

Indeed, Mearsheimer, the R. Wendell Harrison distinguished service professor at the University of Chicago, and Walt, the Robert and Renee Belfer professor of international relations at the Harvard Kennedy School, did draw strikingly similar conclusions to Hostettler’s regarding the role played by what they called the “Israel Lobby” when it comes to explaining why the United States invaded Iraq.

In a piece in Foreign Policy — published in 2010 when many Americans had come to the conclusion that the Iraq War was at the very least misguided — Walt listed off more purported evidence for the contention that a coalition of Israeli leaders, pro-Israel U.S. lawmakers, and pro-Israel lobbyists created a constant drumbeat for the war.

“If the neoconservatives deserve the blame for dreaming up the idea of invading Iraq, key groups and individuals in the lobby played an important role in selling it on Capitol Hill and to the public at large,” Walt wrote.

Notably, Mearsheimer and Walt published their book before Hostettler self-published his.

Hostettler defended the claims he made in his book by pointing to the words of Israeli leaders during the leadup to the Iraq War, including the testimony of then-former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee in 2002.

Netanyahu told the American lawmakers, “There is no question whatsoever that Saddam is seeking and is working and is advancing toward the development of nuclear weapons. No question, whatsoever.”

A similar address by Netanyahu to the Senate was mentioned by Walt in his Foreign Policy op-ed as further evidence of Israeli leaders cheerleading for U.S. troops to invade Iraq.

In the ensuing years, a number of lawmakers acknowledged there was likely no link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, and that claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction were false, per previous coverage by The Dallas Express. To many of them, 4,500 U.S. troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died in a war fought under false pretenses, just as Hostettler had warned.

Estimates of the cost of the Iraq War to American taxpayers vary significantly, but most calculate the price in the trillions of dollars. In 2020, the Military Times put that price tag at nearly $2 trillion. A 2010 study published by The Washington Post said the cost up to that point was $3 trillion.

In explaining why The Washington Post’s number was so much higher than the 2003 Bush administration projections that the war would cost $50-60 billion, lead author Linda Bilmes said, “It appears that our $3 trillion estimate (which accounted for both government expenses and the war’s broader impact on the U.S. economy) was, if anything, too low. For example, the cost of diagnosing, treating, and compensating disabled veterans has proved higher than we expected.”

Israel’s current position is that its armed forces are engaged in a war with Iranian proxies, not just in Gaza but across the region. Iran has supported Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Houthi rebels in Yemen, all of which have engaged in attacks on Israel in the recent conflagration. Last weekend, Iran fired off hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel from its own territory, most of which were shot down.

Many experts and regional leaders have said for years that the biggest, and perhaps only, winner of the Iraq War was Iran.

U.S. Ambassador James Oberwetter relayed to Washington in 2006 a conversation he had with Saudi King Abdullah.

“In the past, [King Abdullah] noted, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Saddam Hussein had agreed to fight Iran, to prevent Iranian intervention in Iraq and the region.  Now, he said, Iran has been presented with Iraq as a ‘gift on a golden platter,'” he wrote in a cable obtained by WikiLeaks and cited by The New York Times.

As the race in Indiana heats up with less than a month to go before the primary, Hostettler has staked out an anti-war position again, with a platform that emphasizes his opposition to U.S. involvement in Ukraine’s war with Russia. He is also getting help from reinforcements in the America First movement, like Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who recently appeared in an ad spot endorsing Hostettler as a “constitutional conservative.”

In the ad, Paul said Hostettler can be trusted to “stop sending our tax dollars overseas” and “stop the out-of-control spending causing skyrocketing inflation.”

“I trust John to defend our liberty,” Paul added.

The primary contest will, in all likelihood, determine who goes to Congress, as Democrats are not expected to field a competitive general election candidate in the heavily Republican district.

Support our non-profit journalism

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Continue reading on the app
Expand article