On a recent trip to Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid down the law: America must threaten the Iranians with war if Tehran insists on pursuing its nuclear energy program. We are supposed to take seriously Netanyahu’s threats to strike Iran himself, in spite of the fact that Israel has neither the means nor the political resolve to do so. However, this is not the way Israel operates: their preferred method is to let Uncle Sam do their dirty work, as in Iraq, while they save their resources for aggression closer to home. The Israel-is-about-to-attack-Iran meme gives the Americans cover to take action in the name of preventing a supposedly greater catastrophe. With Israel playing the part of the unhinged pit-bull, Obama’s assigned role is that of the statesman, who is going to give the Iranians one “last chance,” as he put it.
In any case, the results of Netanyahu’s mission were unveiled on Saturday, when the New York Times revealed the opening negotiating position of the US and its European allies in the upcoming talks with Iran: the Western alliance is demanding the dismantling of the heavily fortified Fordo facility and the unconditional surrender of their entire stock of 20 percent enriched uranium.
That Iran has every right to enrich uranium to 20 percent under the terms of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), is considered irrelevant by the West: as in the case of Iraq under Saddam Hussein, the Iranians are considered guilty until proven innocent. They must somehow prove they aren’t building weapons: the logical impossibility of proving a negative is also considered irrelevant.
The official position of the US intelligence community remains the same: that the Iranians stopped work on a weapons program in 2003, haven’t resumed it, and there is no evidence they’ve decided to go that route. But why should a US President listen to his own intelligence agencies when the Israelis – and the British – are demanding action? We are apparently a prisoner of our own “allies,” and it is they who are pushing us to war with Iran. That is what this administration’s vaunted “internationalism” is all about.
That the push for war is happening in the context of a presidential election season is all the more cause for worry: you’ll note Obama has taken to invoking Republican icons of late, from Eisenhower to Reagan, in order to justify his domestic policies, and there’s no doubt he wants to move to the “center” on the foreign affairs front, too. This means more than just toughening his rhetoric: as the issuing of this ultimatum shows, it means making real moves toward what seems nearly inevitable at this point – armed conflict with Iran.
For all this administration’s alleged attempts to “engage” the Iranians, there were never any serious efforts to come to any kind of agreement: unconditional demands, exemplified by this latest ultimatum, were always at the core of various Western “peace” proposals. Now that the Iranian drama is coming down to the wire, virtually all pretenses at real negotiations have been rapidly discarded.
While most Americans have no understanding of the highly technical issues that revolve around determining the nature of Iran’s nuclear energy program, polls show they can be easily frightened into giving their tacit consent to a ruinous war – just as they did in the case of Iraq. It is this, and not the question of whether the Iranians are actually intent on building a nuclear arsenal, that drives administration policy. In the end, and especially with this current crew in the White House, it’s all about politics – as the extraordinary leaking of a highly secret US surveillance program conducted over Iranian skies clearly shows.
In Iran, too, this politics-in-command principle holds: the currently divided Iranian leadership is using the nukes issue as a political football, with one faction accusing the other of going soft on the Americans. Inside Iran, the nuclear issue has become a matter of national pride, rather than economic development, with hardliners mobilizing nationalist sentiment against the opposition. The result is that the leaders of both countries are under enormous pressure to continue their intransigence to the end, which means the drift toward war can never be reversed, only delayed temporarily.
Barack Obama won the White House on the strength of his reputation as a “peace” candidate: the US electorate, weary of nearly a decade of constant war, embraced him over both his Democratic primary opponent and war enthusiast John McCain because they wanted a break from the crisis atmosphere of the Bush years. Yet that atmosphere was not about to dissipate just because the Republicans were out of office: indeed, it thickened perceptibly the moment he took office, due largely to the well-funded and hyper-active Israel lobby, and its neoconservative vanguard.
In mortal fear Obama might actually act on his campaign promises – half of them unspoken and largely imaginary – the War Party went on the offensive, in the US media, in the US Congress, and overseas, constantly hyping the alleged “threat” posed by the nuclear-armed “mad mullahs” of Tehran, and flooding the country with war propaganda. Much of this was based on the claims of the Israelis that they face an “existential threat” from Iran’s purported nuclear ambitions: Holocaust imagery is routinely invoked by both Israeli leaders and their American amen corner. That Israel possesses a substantial nuclear arsenal of its own, which it has never acknowledged, and has steadfastly refused to sign the NPT, as virtually all civilized nations in the world have done – well, we’re not supposed to breathe a word of this out loud, because to do so is to commit a hate crime.
Israel’s avid defenders complain the Jewish state is held to a different standard: that its routinely brutal behavior toward its Arab helots in the occupied territories is judged and condemned by those who are silent when it comes to the depredations of various other regimes. Or something like that. In any case, what is striking about this argument is that, in the case of the NPT, Israel is not being held to a standard applied equally to all others – and almost no one so much as mentions this astonishing fact. The last prominent person to bring it up in an international context was Bashar al-Assad – and look what happened to him.
It is absolutely ridiculous that a little sliver of a nation, with a population hovering around 7 million, is able to boss around a mighty multi-national empire like the United States, but there you have it – yet more proof of my theory of “libertarian realism,” which holds that domestic political considerations are the decisive factor in determining a nation’s foreign policy. In this context, it doesn’t matter whether Iran is really trying to join the nuclear club: as in the case of Iraq, if they can’t find the “evidence,” or credibly manufacture it, the US and its allies will demand the near total surrender of Iranian sovereignty and Tehran’s ritual humiliation on the world stage before they’ll even think of relenting. Limning the Wicked Witch of the West, who demanded of Oz that they “Surrender Dorothy!”, the “peace” candidate of 2008 is steering us on a course that can only end in war.
President Obama is uniquely qualified for the task of selling this war to the American people: a Republican couldn’t possibly pull it off. While the GOP is seen as trigger-happy and even reckless in the field of foreign affairs, Obama has cultivated the image of a careful pragmatist who will only resort to war as a last resort. Politically, support for such a war is virtually guaranteed during a Democratic presidency, since the Republicans will reflexively support it while only a few dissident Democrats will dare buck the administration.
That this will be a war to make the world safe for Israel is not even being denied any longer: the Israelis, who kept reasonably quiet in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, are now nothing if not vocal in their desire to see us take out the Persians. And so we will fight yet another war based on phony “intelligence” provided by our supposed allies, who openly and shamelessly use the dumb American giant to advance their various agendas. This is what comes of serving as the world’s self-appointed policeman: the necessity of having to answer every 911 call, no matter how dubious or even outright false it turns out to be.
We are hearing the same lies disseminated by the same gaggle of foreign agents, discredited deceivers, and bought off politicians, repeated over and over until we are sick unto death of hearing them. Are there no patriots left in Washington? God, but what I wouldn’t give for a J. William Fulbright or a Bob Taft, right now – just one prominent political figure with the standing to hold this administration accountable as we stand on the brink of war!
In the electoral arena, the prospects of finding a champion of reason and peace are dim. With the Democrats in thrall to the Obama cult, the only outlet for antiwar activism has been in that most unlikely arena, the GOP. Unfortunately, it looks like the campaign of Ron Paul is going to end in August, at the Republican national convention in Tampa: in the general election, anti-interventionist voters will have to either stay home or vote for some third- or fourth-party candidate nobody ever heard of.
The public discourse over this issue is incredibly one-sided: we are subjected to daily assault by a media complex that faithfully projects the assertions of US government officials as “fact,” with no chance of rebuttal. You’ll note that the media has recently been swept clean of any possible antiwar dissidents: Keith Olbermann, Pat Buchanan, Andrew Napolitano – all have been purged for one ostensible reason or another, and the public airwaves will not carry their protests when the President gives the command to “shock and awe” Tehran.
The conventional wisdom is that if the President strikes, he will wait until after the election, but there are two factors militating against this: 1) He has pretty much lost control of the timing by issuing this “last chance” ultimatum. If the Iranians don’t surrender Dorothy, the Witch has vowed to descend on her broomstick and command her flying monkeys to attack. If she doesn’t she’ll lose credibility – and the Republicans will be handed a campaign issue. 2) Speaking of the campaign, it is far easier for a wartime President to be reelected than a peacetime one presiding over a sputtering economy. With patriotic cries of “unity” in wartime and the atmosphere of manufactured crisis constraining his opponents, Obama will have a far easier time of it if he just relaxes, sits back, and lets the Israel lobby have its way with him.
If the President’s record in office demonstrates any consistency, it is that his default strategy is to take the path of least resistance. Of course, the resistance of the American people is neither here nor there, in this instance: the political system, which is designed to keep out “dissident” candidates, has fulfilled its function for the 2012 contest.
When it comes to the question of war and peace, the American people are largely excluded from the discourse, except for references to polls of dubious merit. This is a non-debate taking place almost exclusively among the political elites, a group that bases much of its inflated self-regard on the conviction that Washington is the epicenter of an empire grander and more enduring than any before it. Any attempt to scale down – or, Heaven forfend, even dismantle – this global imperium is nothing less than an attack on their status and their precious self-esteem. You’re about as likely to have a real foreign policy “debate” among this crowd as you are at a Soviet party congress, circa 1933.
I have to hand it to the War Party: a mere decade after ginning up a war based entirely on lies and manipulated “intelligence,” they’re on the verge of pulling it off again, in a nearly identical manner. Only this time the stakes are much higher, the “enemy” is a lot more formidable, and the chances of the conflict becoming regional or even worldwide are near certainty.
The Fordo facility is being fixated on for the simple reason that it makes for good war propaganda: a “heavily fortified” underground complex, where those evil Eye-ranians can make “weapons of mass destruction” in the dark. What our war-crazed media routinely fails to report, however, is that cameras are recording activities in that facility twenty-four hours a day, and Western surveillance of other sites is close and constant. If the Iranians were about to develop a nuclear bomb, we would know it well in advance.
These are the facts – but war propaganda, which plays on imagery and people’s emotions, has little if anything to do with facts. It is the role of the media, in a free society, to fact check the pronouncements of our political leaders, especially when they want to take us to war – but our media gave that function up long ago, in favor of becoming the stenographers of power.
At this point I could easily go off on a riff about the absolute importance of Antiwar.com and alternative media in exposing the War Party’s schemes and waking up the American public, but I’ll restrain myself this time. Suffice to say that we have our work cut out for us in the coming months, as the Iranian “crisis” unfolds. Hopefully, with your continued support, we’ll be up to the task.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I’ve received so many emails and responses to my “Open Letter to Ron Paul” that I would have to devote an entire column to answering them – which is why I must refrain. I’ve had my say on the matter, and it’s not up to me whether my unsolicited advice is taken, so I’ll not say another word on the subject.