They’re ginning up another war, and the target is Iran. While the propaganda campaign started shortly after we invaded Iraq, with Rummy and the President ratcheting up the warlike rhetoric early on, the accusations and threats against Iran have lately taken on a new urgency. Whereas in the early Rumsfeld era we mainly restricted ourselves to warning Tehran against meddling in our newly-acquired province, these days we are blaming the mullahs for our failure to stabilize the country: Iraq won’t stay conquered, dammit, and it must be the Iranians’ fault that’s the narrative the War Party is pushing to rationalize the ongoing disaster, while simultaneously making the case for opening up a new front.
And an increasing number of Americans are falling for it. A new Zogby poll says 52 percent of the American people favor attacking Iran to prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons. A recent Pew survey similarly indicates that war hysteria is on the rise, with 82 percent convinced that a nuclear-armed Iran would pass off nukes to terrorists, and two-thirds believing Iran is likely to attack the US. The yearlong hate-fest directed at Tehran is clearly paying off.
I can’t say I’m surprised. After all, as of this past summer, 41 percent of the American people still believe Saddam Hussein was responsible for planning, financing, and/or carrying out the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Gee, I wonder how they got that impression .
The neocons are giving us the same song-and-dance that preceded our last glorious Middle Eastern "victory" as administration spokesmen conjure the Halloweenish specter of mad-mullahs-with-nukes, the "evidence" is being doctored, massaged, and otherwise manipulated to fit the War Party’s stipulations. Get ready for another massive "intelligence failure" and cries of "But everybody thought they had weapons of mass destruction’!"
Yet, one has to ask: how many times are we going to fall for this guff?
To begin with, there is no chance Iran will have a nuclear weapon in anything short of 5 to 10 years: a few thousand centrifuges, while it sounds impressive, is not the equivalent of a nuke factory. It would take many more thousands to enrich uranium to weapons-grade quality, and Iran hasn’t got the technical capability to construct and maintain such a large-scale operation, as pointed out by as Peter Beaumont, foreign-affairs editor of The Observer.
Secondly, even if Iran did one day join its neighbors Israel and Pakistan in the nuclear club, there is every reason to believe that "we have the power to deter" them, as General Abizaid put it: “Let’s face it, we lived with a nuclear Soviet Union, we’ve lived with a nuclear China, and we’re living with (other) nuclear powers as well.”
The real fear, however, is that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a threat to the continental United States by passing off the technology to a terrorist group, such as al-Qaeda. It doesn’t matter that this is the most unlikely scenario of them all: no nuclear power would ever give a non-state actor access to such technology for fear of the fallout, quite literally. With al-Qaeda in possession of nuclear weapons, the likelihood that they would attack Iran, or someplace nearby, is quite high far more plausible a scenario than the dim prospect of somehow smuggling a nuke into the US, or delivering it by some other means. Yet no matter how far-fetched the possibility, even such a slim chance conjures a nighmarish fear, and that, in turn, is not quite rational.
This fear of nukes, and of another 9/11, was the clincher in the run-up to the last war. These two themes were so skillfully interwoven, and evoked, that, in spite of the prolonged debunking of the alleged Saddam-Osama connection, the myth persists to this day.
In fact, it worked so well the last time around that the War Party, in preparing for it’s next act, is engaged in a vast recycling project, revamping some pretty familiar lies, half-truths, and cherry-picked bits of "intelligence," albeit with a new twist. Think of the time, energy, and money they’ll be saving: they don’t need new propaganda, all they have to do is haul out the old stuff, insert Iran in place of Iraq, and replace Saddam Hussein with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That was Winston Smith’s job at the Ministry of Truth, and his real-world equivalents are getting awfully good at it: why, just look at those poll numbers.
How do we account for the sudden rise of a new war hysteria, this time directed against Iran? While the administration has turned up the volume of its anti-Iranian rhetoric, and the mass media has duly and largely uncritically reported it, this is only part of the reason for the ominous uptick. The core reason is that we’re entering the political season, and none of the presidential candidates presented to us as "major" will take war with Iran off the table: indeed, the Republicans with one exception seem to be competing with each other to see who can take the most ferociously provocative stance. When it comes to Iran, the Democrats are almost as bad and, in the case of the putative frontrunner, perhaps even worse. As Bill Safire put it on "Meet the Press" last Sunday, in the context of discussing Hillary’s possible picks for the VP slot,
"What about Rahm Emanuel, the most powerful voice in the House of Representatives that agrees with Hillary Clinton on foreign affairs. He’s a hawk. And although he’s a rootin’ tootin’ liberal on domestic affairs, he is a hawk on foreign affairs. I was at thea roast for him for Epilepsy Association, and Hillary Clinton was there, and I said, quite frankly, here you have the hawkish side of the Democratic Party. If they get together, the bumper sticker will read Invade and bomb with Hillary and Rahm.’"
As the issues are increasingly framed in terms of presidential politics, there is little vocal opposition to the rush to war with Iran, even in the supposedly "antiwar" Democratic party. Many of the same people who think George W. Bush is a war criminal who lied us into invading Iraq will nonetheless dutifully pull the lever for Hillary, who has criticized the president for being soft on the mullahs. Having already given her moral and political sanction for attacking Iran by voting for the Kyl-Lieberman resolution which, even in the slightly watered-down version passed by the Senate, provides enough cover for the Bush administration, or its successor, to claim the authority to take military action Hillary Clinton will inherit and continue the neocons’ wars, and will be no less committed to "victory."
Americans see their leading politicians "debating," but none of them are opposing war with Iran: indeed, they all seem to be going along with it, with a few exceptions and these exceptions, precisely because they aren’t going along to get along, are invariably dismissed by the pundits as "minor" or "fringe" candidates, who cannot under any circumstances be taken seriously. The majority of Americans now want a definite deadline for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, and yet not a single "major" candidate for president proposes such a course. What’s more, if he or she did, they would be immediately relegated to second or third-tier status, even as their campaign fundraising dried up for reasons convincingly explained by Wesley Clark.
Beating the drums for war, the Israel lobby is pulling out all the stops, and this time they are out in the open about it. The fear that the Lobby would be too visible in promoting Israel’s interests motivated them to keep a relatively low profile during the run-up to war with Iraq, but it isn’t holding them back now. AIPAC, for one, is openly leading the charge for war, and, as the overwhelming vote in favor of Kyl-Lieberman indicates, they are doing a bang-up job of it. The Democrats are terrified of the Lobby: the loss of all that New York money, which is essential for Hillary’s victory, would be a disaster for them. Not that there is much danger of Hillary forgetting her good friends in the military-industrial complex, who have donated more to her than to all the others combined. She, after all, has a lot to prove: can a woman be a tough commander-in-chief? Faced with a "choice" between someone who is bound to over-compensate in the direction of unreasonable belligerence, and Rudy Giuliani well, all I can say is, ain’t "democracy" wonderful?
Public opinion is shaped, in part, by the political discourse, and when it comes to foreign policy, rather than debating, the two parties are singing a duet. As the Iraq war widens into a burgeoning conflict with Iran, and not a single major political figure rises to oppose it, we are stumbling into an even bigger quagmire than the one in which we are presently immersed. Gen. Abizaid says that we’ll be in Iraq for the next 50 years: if we go to war with Iran, make that a century or so.