Memo to: Sen. John Edwards (D, N.C.)
Re: Iran’s "Nuclear Weapons Program"
I caught you on a film clip last night, senator, where you were blasting President Bush for diverting resources from the war on terrorism to the war in Iraq. If I’m not mistaken, you also criticized him for allowing Iran and North Korea to develop nuclear weapons programs on his watch. The fact is, senator, that neither Iran nor North Korea have nuclear weapons programs. As best I can tell, you and the rest of the American people have been misled to that belief in the same way the neocons in the Bush administration fooled you on Iraq. They had almost everyone persuaded, including you and Senator Kerry, that Saddam Hussein had an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction or at least ongoing programs. I noted an informal poll last night on CNN where the audience responded two-to-one in the belief that Iran at the present time has an ongoing nuclear weapons program. It does not. I’ve been pointing out for some time now that these fictions have been cooked up by John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for non-proliferation, a junior officer in the neocon bureaucratic army that is devoted to the use of force to get what it wants.
What they count on is a national press corps that dutifully reports whatever they say in their background briefings. Bolton clearly misrepresents what the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the charter of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) permit a signator to do or not do. The other day I wrote in this space that New York Times reporter Stephen Weisman acknowledged to me in an e-mail that he should have written "suspected nuclear weapons program" in his dispatch on the dispute with Iran, not its "nuclear weapons program," as if it were a fact. In yesterday’s LA Times, reporters Maggie Farley and Tyler Marshall did write that "Iran denies such ambitions," but added that "inspections by the UN’s nuclear energy agency have not provided conclusive evidence of an arms program." In fact, if the reporters were sticklers for accuracy, they would have reported the IAEA has "NO evidence of an Iranian arms program." Not conclusive, but NO evidence!
Of course you can’t take my word for it, senator, but if you would ask around at least you will find that Iran has absolutely, totally agreed to live by the strictest terms of the NPT, the Nuclear Safeguards Agreement, and the latest protocol of the IAEA. The latter permits perpetual inspections by the IAEA, including spot inspections of any suspected site anywhere inside Iran. Because you and Senator Kerry have been sharply critical of how President Bush allowed himself to be bamboozled into the unnecessary war with Iraq, you should be careful or you will find yourself retracing those same steps in seeming to authorize the use of force against Iran.
You surely must have heard that Israel has been making distinct threats from Jerusalem in recent weeks, suggesting it may have to send its air force to Iran, to blow up suspected nuclear sites. Israel has also announced plans to buy 500 "bunker-busters" from the Pentagon, bombs designed to blow up underground suspected sites. You ask me: "But hasn’t Iran said it will permit IAEA inspectors to look at any and all suspected sites?" Yes, but so did Saddam Hussein, and the inspectors crawled all over Iraq looking for the sites, and when they found nothing, the Bush administration declared war anyway. See what I mean? The neocons do what they feel like doing.
Because our national press corps is so weak when it comes to asking these kinds of questions, and is now forever having to apologize for letting the barn door open AFTER the horses are all gone, about the best you can do is watch the PBS Lehrer News Hour for useful information. PBS does not have to survive on a commercial basis, so it can resist special interest pressures. If you missed the show Sept. 27, I’ll provide the link here so you can review the Ray Suarez interview of Iran Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazzi. As you will see, Kharazzi is stating as explicitly as he can that nobody has to fear an Iranian nuke, not because he asks us to trust Tehran, but because his government is offering to submit to the strictest regime that can be devised. And, by the way, the Iranian government foots the bill for the UN’s IAEA inspectors.
Even before the PBS interview, it was clear to Dr. Gordon Prather, a nuclear physicist who was the army’s chief scientist in the Reagan years, what Iran was committing itself to do. Here is his Sept. 25 column about “Iran’s Golden Offer.”
After you check this out, senator, please pass the word to the top of the ticket, as I think Senator Kerry may also be relying on what he is reading in the papers and thinks the president should "crack down" on Tehran instead of simply accepting this golden offer.