Rick Santorum Targets Iran

by , August 13, 2011

In his heated exchange with Ron Paul at the Republican debate in Iowa, Rick Santorum defended his sponsorship of sanctions against Iran as well as general U.S. belligerence toward that country.

This devoutly anti-freedom politician made a number of claims against Iran that are very misleading or just flat out wrong. Ron had only 30 seconds to respond, and did a great job, but there is more to say.

First, Santorum says Iran has been at war with the United States since 1979. Ron points out that the bad blood between Americans and Iranians began in 1953, when a CIA coup installed the Shah. Indeed, we should remember that before 1953, the Iranians tended to look very warmly upon the Americans, who, unlike the British, had left the Iranians alone. Their democratically elected leader Mohammad Mosaddegh, partly for his popularity due to his resistance to British corporate imperialism, was even Time Magazine‘s Man of the Year in 1951.

Not only did the U.S. install the Shah two years later; the CIA taught his secret police force, Savak, how to torture. Savak went on to imprison and torture tens of thousands of political prisoners, adopting such practices of nearly unfathomable brutality as using broken glass and boiling water on subjects’ rectums, mutilating women’s breasts, and cooking victims alive.

After years of being ruled by this U.S.-backed regime, the Iranians overthrew the Shah and the Islamic Revolution of 1979 swept the nation. But, despite what the propagandists say, Iranians still did not hate Americans for our freedom — only for our government’s foreign policy. All the attempts to get Iranians angry at Americans for our culture or modernity failed, Michael Scheuer, former CIA counterterrorism expert, points out.

In the 1980s, the Reagan administration illegally, in direct defiance of Congress, sold weapons to the same Iranian extremists that we are now supposed to think have always been America’s #1 enemy. Meanwhile, the same U.S. administration supported Saddam Hussein’s aggressive invasion of Iran. Iran has never conducted an outright invasion of another nation in over 200 years. It is a much more peaceful nation internationally than the United States. Its one major war in recent years was defensive, against an America-backed invasion by a regime whose atrocities in that very war were later used as partial justification for America’s aggressive invasion of Iraq in 2003.

And that war, the one with Iraq that has gone on for over eight years, greatly empowered the theocratic Iranian state as has nothing else in recent memory. The Iranians were given a huge boost in influence over the new Shiite government in Baghdad, put in place by this supposed American war for democracy. Brutal shariah law resembling that of Iran became imposed. Then, despite the freedom dominoes that were supposed to fall thanks to the Iraq war, Ahmadinejad won the presidency in 2005. Nothing has advanced the interests of the Iranian extremists more than the United States of America. Even so, Ahmadinejad has since been demonized, his bizarre rants taken out of context, and implied to have far more power over Iranian military policy than he actually does.

Second, Santorum claims that Iran has killed more Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan than have the people of those countries. This accusation of significant Iranian guilt behind the insurgent resistance to the U.S. presence has been a constant theme of U.S. propaganda throughout the occupation of Iraq, but has never been demonstrated convincingly. It is even more difficult to believe now. As Jason Ditz explains, the allegations “don’t appear to make a lot of sense at this point, with the Iraqi coalition government firmly in the control of Shi’ite religious factions and the nation on good terms with Iran. There seems little to gain from destablizing the situation.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. has been meddling in Iran, likely including the support of some unsavory terrorists and suicide bombers intent on destabilizing the nation.

Third, Santorum argues that Iran is an existential threat to Israel. This is simply laughable. Iran has no nuclear weapons, as far as anyone can tell, and according to the International Atomic Energy Agency as well as the U.S. intelligence community, Iran hasn’t been seeking such weapons for at least eight years.

Ron Paul is correct that American belligerence toward Iran is a major concern as it could easily be a precursor to war. He is also correct, and bold to say it, when he argues that these conservatives supporting sanctions against countries like Iran (or Cuba) are fake free-traders. In fact, the very worst trade restrictions are those waged in a militarist manner or with coercive diplomacy as the goal. U.S. sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s killed hundreds of thousands, an atrocity that contributed to the hatred that led to 9/11. Blockades greatly exacerbated civilian deaths in World War I and helped bring about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. If goods don’t cross borders, warned Bastiat, soldiers will. Those playing with sanctions are playing with fire.

The mainstream Republicans’ belligerence toward Iran should frighten anyone who is hoping for some electoral reprieve from the Obama administration but remembers the horrors of the Bush years, and what was promised by prospective future Republican presidents. John McCain infamously sang “Bomb, bomb, bomb; bomb, bomb Iran,” in the rhythm of the classic Beach Boys tune, forever marking himself as someone who simply couldn’t be trusted with the nuclear launch codes. If there was one reason for any reasonable American — including conservatives — to prefer Obama in 2008, despite his promises for domestic socialism and his own weaknesses on foreign policy, it was the neocons’ obsessive hatred toward Iran that persisted and grew more feverish by the day during the Bush years. Many of them sought to destroy that country, and they seem to still want to do so. Obama has been, as Ron Paul indicates, far too belligerent, such as in his saber rattling at Iran after the non-event concerning the peaceful nuclear facility at Qom, which Iran declared according to its responsibilities under international law, despite the president’s claims that the nation was caught red-handed doing something illicit.

A version of this appeared on The John Dennis Report.

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