Same Song, Different Verse

The American people, barely coping with nearly 20% in actual as opposed to statistical unemployment, a broken health care system, a skyrocketing federal deficit, and a collapse in home values really don’t need another war, but another war is what they are going to get.  Blame the usual players in Congress and the mainstream media for a lot of it, but the case being made that Iran is a threat to the remainder of the world is largely being cranked up by Israel and its yapping poodles loosely described as the Israel lobby.  That Iran spends only 1% as much on its military as does the United States appears to be irrelevant to the argument because everyone who reads the Washington Post and New York Times knows that those wily mullahs have nukes hidden up the sleeves of those loose gowns that they wear, secret warhead programs, and ballistic missiles that will be able to strike Europe someday for reasons that continue to be somewhat elusive. 

Israel, which gets nearly $3 billion in "military assistance" and numerous other perks from Washington annually and spends twice as much as Tehran on its own military gets a free pass even though it has a secret and uninspected nuclear arsenal that undoubtedly contributes to Iranian paranoia.  Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has made very clear that he wants the United States to attack Iran.  What Israel wants from Washington it usually gets and there is no sign that President Barack Obama has the guts needed to change that sorry history.

Over the past several weeks Israel and its many friends have been particularly busy in beating the war drum.  Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon declared emphatically on November 6th that Israel’s frequently stated willingness to attack Iran is not just a bluff.  On the previous day, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton again cautioned Iran, pressuring the country to accept a tentative agreement on its nuclear program that would have denied it the right to enrich its own uranium, warning "We will not alter it and we will not wait forever."  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen also joined the chorus.  On November 8th the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Mullen "said last week in Washington that a nuclear Iran would pose an existential threat to Israel. Mullen said he would prefer that the US work diplomatically to keep the country from acquiring nuclear weapons, but hinted that should such efforts fail, the US air force and navy could be put into action as well."

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, at the November 3rd Jerusalem Conference, a gaggle of congressmen convened to pledge everlasting loyalty to a foreign nation. Democratic Representative Howard Berman and Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, co-sponsors of the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act of 2009 which advocates cutting off gasoline imports, spoke emotionally about the "Iranian threat." Berman, who reportedly once took an oath of office to represent all of the American people, confirmed "I was a Zionist before I was a Democrat" and added "This administration is serious about preventing a nuclear Iran."  Also present was the ever reliable Senator James Inhofe, who said "There are people who want to take Israel off the map, and the US is next."  He clearly meant Iran though he did not state who those "people" might be or exactly how they were going to do it.

And then there are the good old Southern Baptists, always quick to defend religious freedom worldwide unless it happens to involve Israeli repression of Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land.  On November 2nd leading Southern Baptist evangelical Richard Land of the what-must-be ironically named Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission joined Jewish and other evangelical Christian leaders in New York to demand immediate sanctions to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The evangelical and Jewish groups support the Berman proposal to sanction firms or governments that export refined petroleum to Iran to "engender (sic) significant steps toward ending the Iran regime’s murderous pursuit of nuclear weapons." Richard had apparently not heard about the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that stated that Iran had abandoned its weapon program in 2003.  Nor had he read, or had no interest in reading, the June 2009 report by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor which noted that Israel discriminates systematically against Christians.  It protects holy sites under a 1967 law, but only if they are Jewish.  The report noted that Christian and Muslim sites are fair game for exploitation by real estate entrepreneurs.

As the Goldstone report on Israeli war crimes in Gaza is about to be debated in the UN General Assembly, Tel Aviv presumably feels a need for some good PR, but some of the recent propaganda coming out of Israel and uncritically replayed in the US media does not pass the smell test.  On November 4th, Israel seized an Antiguan registered freighter named the Francop, alleged to be carrying weapons in international waters.  Bibi Netanyahu was beside himself, calling the weapons a "war crime" and declaring "Whoever still needed indisputable proof that Iran continues to send weapons to terror organizations got it today in a clear and unequivocal manner. Iran sends these weapons to terror organizations in order to hit Israeli cities and kill civilians.  The time has come for the international community to put real pressure on Iran for it to halt this despicable activity and back Israel when it defends itself against terrorists and their patrons."

One has to be amused when Bibi Netanyahu calls a possible ship load of weapons that had not been delivered anywhere as a "war crime" while at the same time refusing to investigate last January’s carnage in Gaza. Some have also noted that the daring Israeli commando action looked like it might have been staged.  In its first press announcement, Israel claimed that the weapons had been picked up when the ship stopped in Syria.  But the ship had not yet been to Syria and why would Damascus send Iranian weapons by ship when it would have been far easier to do by land?  Later Israel claimed the ship was traveling from Iran to Syria, but the shipowners stated that the vessel’s actual itinerary was Egypt to Cyprus to Lebanon, ending in Turkey.  So where did the weapons that were displayed by Israel after its commandoes seized the ship and towed it into the port of Ashdod come from and who was supposed to receive them?  It is, to say the least, not clear and the Israeli story has a number of holes in it, most particularly its confident assertion that the weapons were bound for Hezbollah.  Immediately after the seizure, the Israelis released the captain and crew, saying that they had had no knowledge of the hundreds of tons of weapons that were alleged to be on board.  To keep the story fresh, six days later Israel’s Army Chief Gabi Ashkenazi resurrected the tale, stating, without providing any evidence, that Hezbollah has tens of thousands of rockets capable of hitting most Israeli cities.

A strange story, but no stranger than the spin about the Iranian nuclear facility located near Qom.  Readers will recall that the facility was initially described by the US media as a secret weapons facility, proving that the evil Iranians were producing weapons of mass destruction that would immediately be handed off to terrorists who would then use them to blow up the Statue of Liberty.  Even though US intelligence had know about the site for several years and had not been particularly alarmed by it, the Obama Administration quickly jumped on the story, denouncing the Iranians and accepting the premise that the hidden facility automatically means a secret weapons program.

On November 3rd Israeli Military Intelligence Chief Major General Amos Yadlin claimed that the Qom site has "no possible civilian use," adding that Iran is "horizontally expanding" its nuclear program so it will be able to develop a weapon in the shortest possible time.  But it now turns out that the Qom facility was started by the Iranian government in early 2007 when the Bush Administration had combined three aircraft carrier groups in the Persian Gulf region and was threatening to go to war over alleged Iranian interference in neighboring Iraq, a claim that was largely contrived.  In any event, the facility was not developed with any urgency by the Iranians and currently, more than two and a half years later, it is little more than a potential back-up site for uranium enrichment clearly constructed over concerns that Israel or the US would attack the main facility at Natanz.   The site was recently inspected by the UN’s IAEA and Mohammed El-Baradei described it as a "hole in a mountain" and "nothing to be worried about."

And let’s not forget about Hamas, also ranked high in the evil incarnate stakes behind Hezbollah and Iran.  On November 3rd the ubiquitous General Yadlin also accused Hamas of test firing a missile capable of hitting Tel Aviv, hinting darkly that the weapon might have come from Iran.  In reality, the Gaza Strip, 25 miles long and an average of six miles wide and frequently described as "one big prison," is hemmed in by overwhelming Israeli firepower on three sides and cut off by the Egyptians to the south making the import of new military hardware a bit problematic.  As a military threat, Gaza is the mouse that roared. 

And so the propaganda campaign, referred to during the cold war as agitprop, continues with Iran in the crosshairs.  There are reports that Israel has funded a group of young bloggers who have good English to go onto websites to disseminate the party line, particularly regarding Iran, so it is safe to assume that an Orwellian conflict that has no rhyme or reason will be promoted all over the internet.  There will be no rest in Congress, within the media, and in the corridors of power in Israel until Iran is defanged.  And if it will take the deaths of a few thousand more young Americans and the total destruction of the US economy to accomplish that objective, so be it.  Congress and the White House have not been answerable to the American people for quite some time so why should another war change anything?

Author: Philip Giraldi

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is a contributing editor to The American Conservative and executive director of the Council for the National Interest.