Swans Commentary » swans.com October 5, 2009  



Iran: War Madness


by Gilles d'Aymery





(Swans - October 5, 2009)  We have to "draw a line in the sand," said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh last week, echoing the same line George H. W. Bush enounced in 1990 after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. "Iran must comply with United Nations resolutions," said President Obama at the same summit, precisely repeating the line George W. Bush pronounced at the UN in 2002 (only one letter differs in the two declarations -- replace the "n" with a "q"). The shark-like pundits smell blood and call for more. In 1991, it was all about the mushroom cloud and the incubator story. In 2002/early 2003, it was about yellow cake, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and that mushroom cloud again. In 2009, the mushroom cloud keeps resurfacing. "Iran's nuclear ambitions," says The New York Times, is threatening the world, a line espoused by all the media -- all the media -- from The Washington Post to The Wall Street Journal; from the English Guardian to The Times and The Telegraph and The Financial Times and...and...and... -- ALL THE MEDIA. The specter of Hitler is loudly touted once more, with the helping hand of our Israeli friends. We cannot let Hitler carry the day, can we? President Obama, start bombing!

That's where we stand once again (and again, and again). Let's go to war. Let's beat the evil out of our "goodness." Let's save the world...through waging wars... Let war be peace. We are America, god's savior. We can do no wrong.

On August 11, 2009, 35-year-old Katy Abram, a self-described stay-at-home mother, confronted Senator Arlen Specter (D. PA) during a Town Hall meeting in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, which was dedicated to health care reform. Mrs. Abram, looking deeply irritated, told the senator, "You have awakened a sleeping giant . . . . I don't want this country turning into Russia, turning into a socialized country." She added that she wanted to "get back to the Constitution, to the Founding Fathers." That outburst landed her an interview the next day or so on the cable news channel MSNBC's show Hardball with Chris Matthews. Standing in for Matthews, the pugnacious Lawrence O'Donnell grilled the young woman, who looked rather ill at ease. She repeated the same shibboleth about the country being taken over by the hated government and becoming "socialized" -- nothing much memorable.

However, at one point Mrs. Abram said that she had never been politically engaged until that latest debate on health care reform. O'Donnell then asked her why she had not become engaged when we went to war against Afghanistan and Iraq. Her response was remarkable, though far from exceptional. She said that once, during the 1991 Gulf War, she had talked with her dad about war (she must have been about 17 years old), but she quickly figured out that somehow there was always a war, and so it did not make sense to get politically involved with what looks like a fact of life. While Mrs. Abram was obviously ignorant (and brainwashed) in regard to health care reform, and while chances are she would not be able to find Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Russia, or the U.S. for that matter, on a blank world map -- a tribute to our education system -- she made a valid point. The U.S. has been warring year in and year out ever since 1991, and even ever since she was born, and before that year.

Garry Wills, an emeritus professor of history at Northwestern University, wrote in "Entangled Giant" (The New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 15, October 8, 2009) that,

The whole history of America since World War II caused an inertial transfer of power toward the executive branch. The monopoly on use of nuclear weaponry, the cult of the commander in chief, the worldwide network of military bases to maintain nuclear alert and supremacy, the secret intelligence agencies, the entire national security state, the classification and clearance systems, the expansion of state secrets, the withholding of evidence and information, the permanent emergency that has melded World War II with the cold war and the cold war with the "war on terror" -- all these make a vast and intricate structure that may not yield to effort at dismantling it. Sixty-eight straight years of war emergency powers (1941-2009) have made the abnormal normal, and constitutional diminishment the settled order.

The abnormal has indeed become normal. War is not the exception. It is the rule. It is ingrained in the American mindset. From newspapers to the TV news, war is a daily ingredient that feeds the brainwashed masses. The best-selling video games for kids are all about war, whether made by Microsoft or the US Army (yes, the US Army has its own video game that it peddles to American kids). Prime time TV shows are all about war, violence, and "law and order." War is embedded into a huge majority of US congressional districts. It is overwhelmingly prevalent in American life. War is America's DNA. Mrs. Abram cannot be faulted for not being politically engaged because of war, the American apple pie. Would anyone get involved in politics over apple pie?

We are still at war in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in Pakistan. We recently bombed a village in Somalia. And we want more of it. The generals are requesting 40,000 more troops for AfPak, and with the help of their pro-war allies in Congress, the foreign policy think tanks, and the usual minions in the media, they are attempting to box in President Obama. While the Iraq War is off the radar screen and the American public is getting a bit of buyer's remorse in Afghanistan, a confrontation with Iran is relentlessly being pursued by "our war-loving Foreign Policy Community," with corresponding effects on the populace. According to a recent poll 77 percent of the public is "worried about Iran obtaining nukes," and "61 percent of Americans support the U.S. taking military action to stop Iran."

Last month, the Bipartisan Policy Center, which I reviewed in my June 29, 2009, Blips #87 in regard to sick care, issued an updated 26-page report on Iran entitled, "Meeting the Challenge: Time is running out." It was signed by two former senators, Daniel Coats (Republican) and Charles Robb (Democrat), and General (Ret.) Chuck Wald. It begins: "The Islamic Republic of Iran's development of nuclear weapons remains one of the most pressing challenges to U.S. and international security." It reminds that on October 7, 2008, then Senator Obama, recognizing the menace posed by Iran, declared during a debate with Senator McCain, "We cannot allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon.... And so it's unacceptable. And I will do everything that's required to prevent it. And we will never take military options off the table." The signatories recommend that,

If by the end of 2009, the United Nations and European Union do not impose significant, binding sanctions, or if they do but Tehran does not demonstrate substantive progress and cooperation in reversing its policy on nuclear development, then we believe the Obama Administration should elevate consideration of the military option. In this regard it is necessary to make clear that the U.S. military is more than capable of launching a devastating attack on Iranian nuclear and military facilities than either Iranian officials or many journalists realize.

Although technically an act of war, the White House might consider first placing a naval blockade to cut off Iran's importation of gasoline, before resorting to a military strike. If the Islamic Republic persists in its nuclear ambitions, the Pentagon could initiate air strikes targeting key military and nuclear installations, although not civilian facilities, without initially involving ground troops beyond Special Forces. While a successful bombing campaign would set back Iranian nuclear development, Tehran would clearly retain its nuclear know-how. It would also necessitate years of continued vigilance, both to retain the ability to strike previously undiscovered sites and to ensure that Iran does not revive its military nuclear program.

They openly address the pros and cons of having the Israelis strike first:

Although we see an Israeli military strike as increasingly likely, we continue to believe it entails more risks than a U.S. strike. We anticipate an Israeli strike would be of very short duration, less effective than a U.S. strike, would lead to larger international condemnations, even from some countries that might privately welcome it, and -- because the timing would be unexpected -- could provoke more effective Iranian reprisals against U.S. regional allies.

They conclude: "We have laid out above what we consider a realistic and robust policy for preventing the emergence of a nuclear weapons-capable Iran. But time is running out; we must meet the challenge now." (The full report (1.21 MB PDF) can be read on their Web site.)

The trio (Coats, Robb, Wald) then peddled their warmongering in The Washington Post on September 21, 2009 -- "Last Chance for Iran." Meanwhile, Congress did not wait until the end of 2009 to act. Last Thursday, Reuters reported that new sanctions targeting companies that sell gasoline to Iran (which imports about 40 percent of its gasoline) had been handily approved. They were sponsored by the arch right-wing senator from Arizona, Jon Kyl -- the same Jon Kyl who bluntly declaimed on a Sunday morning news show a week ago that "what we want is regime change."

Compare the language of our political class and that of Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, in an interview with the German Der Spiegel. Notice the aggressiveness of the interviewer and the rationality of the Iranian interviewee. Then ask yourself: Who talks about worldwide nuclear disarmament? Who talks about real negotiations? Who makes better sense?

The entire US political apparatus beats the drums of war in abandon. Yet it always leaves out of the "discussion" the three elephants in the room -- India, Israel, and Pakistan -- which are nuclear powers but do not belong to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (unlike Iran, which does). Who is more destabilizing to the Greater Middle East, Iran, who cannot enrich uranium over 3.5 percent and has agreed to ship most of its low-enriched material to Russia to have it refined to about 20 percent to use in a small nuclear research reactor used to make isotopes for nuclear medicine, or the U.S., with her armies encircling Iran and her thousands upon thousands of nuclear weapons, which were used once (Hiroshima, Nagasaki), or Israel, who's always threatening to strike her imaginary enemies and in fact does strike them regularly? Who?

No one in the polite salons of power wants to engage in this "conversation." The gatekeepers keep the door closed. Rational dissenters are not allowed in the palace even though rare voices of reason, from various ideological backgrounds, can be heard or read. Whether it is Andrew Bacevich, the professor of international relations at Boston University, or Jeff Huber, a retired Navy commander who used to write a regular column for military.com, or Tom Engelhardt with his guests at tomdispatch.com, there are a few solid voices out there. Two more come to mind: The indispensable Juan Cole of Informed Comment, who recently penned the "Top Things you Think You Know about Iran that are not True," and Glenn Greenwald, a civil libertarian who is relentless about debunking the hypocrisy of the gatekeepers. Though none of them is a flaming "radical" -- they range from conservatives to moderate liberals -- they are mostly kept at bay by the Establishment. Huber lost his job at military.com; Greenwald has a tiny space on salon.com; Engelhardt is invisible; Bacevich is increasingly shunned; Juan Cole barely tolerated...

Reason, left meaningless, conjures our real challenge, which is: Ignorance is Bliss. War is the winner. The masses rejoice as they lose their jobs (another 260,000 in September), die from lack of health insurance (almost 45,000 a year), see their infrastructure crumble, and their education being dumbed down to the point of mental sclerosis. If Sarah Palin cannot win the presidency, perhaps Mrs. Abram should try. She has the perfect profile.


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Published October 5, 2009