War With Iran?

Thank the gods for the U.S. government, and I mean that at all levels, local, state, and federal. What would we do without them watching out for us 24/7, preparing for whatever threats may come our way, including especially the Great 666 Threat, which is looming fast and furious:

“With June 6, 2006, rapidly approaching, authorities in Colorado and elsewhere are carefully watching to see if that date – 6/6/06 – spurs demonstrations or violent activity. They are aware that 666 signifies the Mark of the Beast or the Antichrist to some organizations and believe June 6 is a date that could trigger problems. ‘It’s been a conscious question among some of our folks, so they’ve been on the lookout for something,’ said Lance Clem, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Safety. ‘But they haven’t seen anything.'”

Things are quiet in Mayberry, but don’t let that fool you – you never know what demonic presence is lurking just around the next corner. And just in case, the Authorities are ready with enough firepower to blow that mean ol’ Debbil away. Who or what is threatening to rise up and scare the bejesus out of us? According to the “experts,” like Chip Ellis, of something called the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism:

“Since 1970, there have been 60 terrorist attacks on June 6, with just one in the U.S. … [Ellis] said he has seen nothing to indicate anything bad will happen June 6. If something does develop, Ellis does not believe it would necessarily involve neo-Nazi, white-supremacist types. Rather it could be ‘anarchists and anti-globalists’ who are tied into the counterculture and relish ‘the chance to stick their thumb in the eye of the establishment,’ he said.”

Those devilish anarchists and dedicated enemies of Starbucks will take any chance they can get to create disorder in the paradise-on-earth that is 21st century America. But the ones who have “666” tattooed on their forearms are just the beginning of our worries: the real problem, as far as the Bush administration is concerned, is overseas. This foreign devil has a name: he is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, who has just threatened (for the second or third time) to wipe Israel off the map, and is now barking his defiance at the West, which is determined to stop Tehran from reaching nuclear parity with Tel Aviv.

The Israelis, as is well-known, have had nukes since the 1960s. Now the Iranians are seeking to level the nuclear playing field, and Israel’s amen corner in the West is up in arms. “The Lobby,” as Stephen Walt and John J. Mearsheimer characterize the pro-Israel forces in the U.S., is pushing for a confrontation with Iran over the nukes issue, with some success. The matter is headed for the UN Security Council, where the Europeans are expected to go along with the American campaign to rein in Tehran, while the Russians and the Chinese are sitting on the fence for now. There is little doubt, however, where all this is bound to lead…

As in Iraq, where the Lobby pushed hard for war, the U.S. is revving up its propaganda machine and belting out a martial anthem. Seymour Hersh has reported that a plan to nuke Iran’s nascent nukes is already on the Pentagon’s drawing board, and now we learn that the famous Valerie Plame – outed as a CIA agent by I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and the neocon cabal around Bush – was working on tracking Iran’s nuclear program when she was exposed. Her cover blown, along with the entire network of which she was a part, the U.S. has been flying blind on the question of whether or not Iran is actively pursuing a nuclear program with military applications. Ignorance is strength as far as the War Party is concerned.

With the nuke-tracking unit of the CIA put out of commission by Scooter and his friends, the way is opened for various “exile” groups of dubious credentials and ideology to stovepipe phony “intelligence” to the Americans. It’s basically a repeat of what happened in the run-up to war with Iraq – only, this time, the stakes are much higher.

War with Iran would drive the price of oil up to as much as $200 a barrel and could precipitate a financial crisis of sufficient seismic force to bring down the world economy. In America, gas-starved commuters would start howling much louder than they are now – and it wouldn’t take much to turn these cries of pain into war cries. That is what the War Party is counting on: combined with images of the “mad mullahs” of Iran armed with nukes and ready to strike at the U.S., the war hysteria will climb to a fever pitch – and you can be sure the neoconservatives will be right there, ratcheting up the volume all the way on the road to war.

In the meantime, the price of oil climbs steadily, in direct proportion to the amount of war talk in the air. As a Reuters story put it:

“Concerns that Iran’s dispute with the West could lead to disruption of its oil output pushed oil prices above $74 a barrel, close to the record of $75.35 touched last month.”

If that seems like a dizzying hike, wait until the Iranians blockade the Gulf of Hormuz, through which two-fifths of the world’s oil passes. Let’s assume that when the supreme commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safa, suggested such a strategy, he wasn’t kidding. In that case, good luck driving to work: you may have to mortgage your house in order to afford the gas.

Anyone who thinks that this acts as a deterrent to the War Party’s ambitions just doesn’t understand what we are dealing with here. The dire consequences of a war with Iran are far more likely to embolden rather than discourage them from embarking on such a fateful path. Since they have infinite contempt for the American public – the neocons, after all, are a self-conscious, self-chosen elite, supposedly capable of handling hard truths that would freak out us ordinary folk – they no doubt believe that the reaction would be simple rage. Not directed at the regime that brought us to this crisis, but at the foreigners who sit on massive quantities of oil, our oil.

Ours by what right? Ours according to the principle that might makes right, i.e., the central organizing principle of American foreign policy in the post-9/11 world.

The rage produced by the 9/11 terrorist attacks effectively shot down the natural defenses of the American body politic and allowed the infiltration of a foreign intruder. It’s like spyware that sneaks in through the back door of your computer and lies hidden in the depths of your operating system, slowly insinuating itself into every circuit – until, finally, one day it takes control and your computer becomes an instrument in someone else’s hands.

I was among the first to see the hand of Israel in the crusade to “liberate” Iraq and export “democracy” at gunpoint to the Middle East, and it looks like I will not be the last. Professors Mearsheimer and Walt have let the cat out of the bag with their pathbreaking paper, “The Israel Lobby,” published by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Their thesis that “the Lobby” effectively controls American foreign policy when it comes to the Middle East, and that Israeli interests motivated key players in the U.S. government to support an invasion, has the War Party in a state of shock. Two prominent academics, with impeccable credentials, have said what we at Antiwar.com have been saying since long before the first American soldier set foot on Iraqi soil: the invasion and occupation of Iraq was designed, not to advance American interests, nor to make the region safe for democracy, but to make the Middle East safe for Israel.

In the case of war with Iran, the hand of the Israelis is even more apparent. In the debate over the Iraq war – such as it was, prior to the first shots being fired – the Lobby kept its head down, and the Israeli government was careful not to make too many public pronouncements, although naturally everyone knew they wanted the invasion to be launched with dispatch. Today, however, when it comes to Iran, Israeli officials are hardly shy about their expectations that the Americans will, once again, take care of their problem. They are openly threatening to provoke the war themselves by engaging in a little preemptive bombing, if the Americans fail to act with sufficient speed.

Americans have to ask themselves if saving Israel is really worth destroying the American economy and plunging the world into another Great Depression [.pdf]. They have to ask themselves if the Iranians achieving nuclear parity with their Israeli counterparts is really worth going to war over – a war in which many more Americans will be killed in the first few weeks than in all the years of the Iraqi occupation. Is it really worth nuking Iran – as the president has suggested – so that the Israeli government can continue to lord it over their Arab helots?

Once the question is posed in these terms, the likely answer coming from the American people ought to be apparent. The problem is how to frame the debate in this context, rather than in one more conducive to the War Party’s agenda.

The second Iraq war, like the first, was essentially a project of a faction within the U.S. government completely devoted to the interests of Israel, which they firmly believe cannot be separated from America’s most vital strategic objectives. We are being manipulated into war with Iran by the same crowd, and for a similar reason, this time with the active assistance of much of the ostensible “Left,” i.e., the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which is being softened up to roll over and play dead if and when President Bush gives the command to strike. Hillary Clinton is more of a hawk on Iran than most of the Republicans in Congress: she criticizes the administration for not being tough enough on Tehran. The Republicans, she brays, are appeasers: they are letting the mullahs off the hook. She assures us she won’t. With a few sterling exceptions, such as Rep. Dennis Kucinich, congressional Democrats, led by the warmongering Nancy Pelosi, take some variant of Hillary’s position.

So, are we doomed?

Unless people begin to wake up – and soon – I’m afraid the answer is yes. The great problem is that much of the antiwar movement shies away from the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis, on account of the preliminary groundwork done by the War Party. You’ll recall that, early on, the War Party’s laptop bombardiers, such as Andrew Sullivan and his fellow “warbloggers,” busied themselves trying to smear the antiwar movement as a collection of extreme leftists and anti-Semites. Sullivan absurdly claimed that the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion was being distributed at antiwar demonstrations, and every opportunity was taken to draw a parallel between the views of antiwar protesters and, say, David Duke. Mearsheimer and Walt have been subjected to the same sliming campaign – by the Washington Post, no less. This, the War Party hopes, inoculates them against being fingered as de facto agents of a foreign power and effectively masks what amounts to the hijacking of American foreign policy.

The charge of anti-Semitism is a canard. It conflates the interests of individual Jews with the quite separate interests of Israel as a nation: these interests are not always congruent, and are often in conflict. For example, since it is not easy to get people to move to a country under siege, one in which jobs and housing are in short supply, the Israeli government depends to a certain extent on the fear of anti-Semitism to keep its population growing. The more anti-Semitism there is in the rest of the world, the easier it is for the Israel government to sell aliyah – immigration by Jews to Israel – as the only solution. Rising anti-Semitism hardly serves the interests of the world’s Jews, but it suits the engineers of the Zionist project just fine, thank you. And if they can’t come up with a real anti-Semitic threat, or provoke one, then a little exaggeration – if not outright lying – is surely in order. After all, it’s for an ostensibly good cause…

Another example: a war with Iran would not serve the interests of American Jews, who have just as much to lose from such a horrific turn of events as anyone else in this country – and yet, it would suit the Israelis just fine if the Americans would knock off another one of their enemies, especially one that periodically threatens them with annihilation.

The antiwar forces, if they take the bull by the horns, so to speak, can turn this one around and deal an effective blow to the War Party, derailing their plans to provoke a fresh conflict in the Middle East and exposing their treason to public view. There is but one way to do this: by exposing the machinations and motivation of the Lobby. This would blunt the spearhead of the War Party and render it ineffective: people would begin to see it for what it is – as a megaphone for a foreign power, just as the Communist Party was once the Kremlin’s echo chamber.

The price of moral cowardice, however, is defeat – and the end of this country as we know it. I doubt the Republic can long withstand the economic and political gale unleashed by a war with Iran. If the War Party pulls this one off, then you can kiss your country – your freedom, your relatively comfortable lifestyle, your Americanness – good-bye.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

To the academics out there, there is some concrete action you can take now to ensure that the foreign policy debate is framed to the advantage of those of us who hope for peace: you can sign this petition, started by Professor Juan Cole, defending Professors Mearsheimer and Walt from the scurrilous charges raised against them by the Lobby’s apologists. Here is the full text of the petition:

“We note with dismay that when eminent political scientists John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard published their ‘The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy’ in the London Review of Books, they were subjected to a barrage of ad hominem attacks. In particular, they were smeared as ‘anti-Semites.’ This epithet was hurled at them by the Anti-Defamation League, Eliot A. Cohen, Alan Dershowitz, Representative Eliot Engel, Richard L. Cravatts, and many others.

Merriam-Webster gives the following definition of anti-Semitism: ‘an•ti-Sem•i•tism
Function: noun: hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group
.’

“We protest the character assassination of eminent American academics, firm supporters of civil rights for all, as racist bigots for their academic analysis of the domestic dimension of U.S. foreign policy. No paper about other ethnic lobbies’ impact on foreign policy (e.g., Cuban-Americans, Irish-Americans, or Armenian-Americans) would have elicited such over-heated and patently unfair charges of racism.

“We fear that the real motive in the brandishing of the serious charge of ‘anti-Semitism’ so readily at any discussion of the U.S. relationship with Israel is an attempt to chill public debate and to discourage the critical evaluation of American Middle East policy and of Israeli policy in the region. Such a misuse of the word ‘anti-Semitic’ is profoundly anti-democratic. Democracy requires free public debate of all issues affecting the public weal.

“We deeply fear that this practice is becoming a form of ‘crying wolf,’ and that the force of the term ‘anti-Semite’ is being rapidly eroded as a matter of moral sensibility. True anti-Semitism does exist and is an evil. Let us vigilantly combat it rather than mischaracterizing academic papers.

“We also fear that an impression is being created that elements in the American Jewish community are hostile to academic freedom of speech and inquiry, and are hostile even to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. As admirers of the historic role the American Jewish community has played in furthering civil liberties in the United States, we are concerned and saddened at this development.

“We call upon the presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations forthrightly to condemn the smearing of Professors Mearsheimer and Walt, and of other academics who subject Middle East policy issues to critical inquiry, as ‘anti-Semites.'”

I should emphasize that Professor Cole is explicitly soliciting signatures from professional academics: if you’re teaching at a university, or have at some point and have academic credentials, please consider affixing your name to this courageous and very necessary statement. If you don’t have academic credentials, then you might want to circulate this petition to those who do and help in the effort to give it maximum publicity. Too bad we can’t put this in the New York Times as a full-page ad – unfortunately, we don’t have the financial resources available to the Lobby, which is spending more this year than ever before.

Read more by Justin Raimondo

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].