Peter Beinart asks some pretty good questions: he wants to know why the same crowd that lied us into war in Iraq isn’t completely discredited when it comes to their opposition to the recently concluded deal with Iran. No, he doesn’t put it quite that way, in part because, by his own admission, he was one of the most enthusiastic cheerleaders for what he now describes as “one of the most important, and damaging, episodes in the history of U.S. foreign policy.” He frames his question this way:
“I have a fantasy. It’s that every politician and pundit who goes on TV to discuss the Iran deal is asked this question first: ‘Did you support the Iraq War, and how has that experience informed your position?'”
Beinart is right to regard this as a fantasy, because it will never happen. Yet he fails to ask why that is. Instead, he vents his spleen:
“Again and again, pundits who championed the invasion of Iraq – people like Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer – appear on television advocating the same worldview they advocated in 2002 and 2003, and get to pretend that nothing has happened over the last 15 years to throw that worldview into question. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which championed the invasion of Iraq (which is not to suggest that AIPAC caused it), can mount a mammoth lobbying campaign against the Iran deal without being asked why, given its track record, anyone should listen to it this time. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who in 2002 told Congress that ‘There is no question whatsoever that Saddam is … advancing towards the development of nuclear weapons’ and that ‘If you take out … Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region,’ can appear on Sunday show after Sunday show smugly lecturing the host about the state of Iran’s nuclear program and the Iran deal’s implications for the Middle East without having his earlier comments read back to him.”
“To a degree that will baffle historians,” Beinart continues, “the political-intellectual complex that made the Iraq War possible remains intact, and powerful. Amnesia is part of the reason why.”
Does Beinart really believe the media complex that gives the War Party a guaranteed platform suffers from amnesia? I hardly think so. And as for the historians, surely they’ll be a bit more perceptive than Beinart gives them credit for.
The answer to Beinart’s conundrum is that there’s no difference whatsoever between the media and “the political-intellectual complex that made the Iraq War possible.” As writers like Glenn Greenwald have demonstrated again and again (and again) the “mainstream” media functions as the regime’s Praetorian Guard. As Greenwald put it in this tweet:
“US Govt officials today told me X, and ordered me to conceal their identity as I uncritically parrot it. I obeyed. The End. Hire me, NYT!”
Nothing dramatizes this government-media symbiosis better than the aftermath of the Snowden revelations, when it was the American (and British) media that led the lynch mob screaming for the whistleblower’s blood (even as they profited from their coverage of his revelations). When Greenwald appeared on “Meet the Press,” host David Gregory demanded to know why he shouldn’t be arrested for “aiding and abetting” Snowden, while Chuck “The Suckup” Todd wondered about what role Greenwald had in facilitating Snowden’s flight to Moscow.
Beinart remembers the Iraq war, and greatly regrets his role in ginning it up, but how much does he really recall? His memory seems slightly impaired, if you ask me, because while he holds the feet of pundits like Kristol and Krauthammer to the fire, he nowhere asks why the “news” media isn’t being held accountable. Yet these were the primary culprits.
No one expects anything better of the neocons, but reporters are supposed to be different: they traffic in facts, not opinion, and yet they failed miserably in their alleged duty to report only the facts and instead devoted themselves to faithfully reporting the talking points of an administration hell-bent on war.
As the “news” media avidly transcribed the latest lies broadcast by the Bush administration in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, the War Party’s pundits just as avidly grasped this ammunition and loaded it into their word processors. Thus a narrative was born.
And it’s not just the media complex: there’s also a huge “thinktank” complex, the array of Washington-based institutions funded by the pro-Israel lobby and their allies in the military-industrial complex: their bread-and-butter is the maintenance and expansion of the American empire. Israel’s amen corner is the sparkplug that keeps the War Party humming and gives them some semblance of a mass base: that rally in New York City (where else?) protesting the Iran deal is a perfect manifestation of it, as is this rally featuring Ted Cruz and the renegade Rand Paul. (Sen. Paul chickened out at the last minute.)
Add to this the leadership of the Republican party and a good chunk of its activist base, which has been nearly converted into an appendage of the Israel lobby, the partisan manifestation of AIPAC. Who does the Israeli ambassador turn to for strategizing against the Iran deal as the issue comes up in Congress? Why, the GOP congressional caucus, of course. Not since the heyday of Communist Party USA has an American political party become so enmeshed with – and subservient to – a foreign government.
The Iran deal is the toughest arms control regime ever imposed anywhere: Tehran has no chance of building a nuclear weapon in secret without being caught. Israel’s partisans in the US Congress and the media concede this by shifting their arguments to the “Iran will now be free to spread terror” meme, emphasizing how much money will be freed up as a result of lifting sanctions. And yet this stance merely underscores how much they are arguing from Israeli – as opposed to American – premises. Hezbollah will be empowered, they cry; Bashar al-Assad will be propped up; and all of this will deteriorate Israel’s position in the region.
Yet the Israeli security establishment doesn’t quite agree: like the Obama administration, many say it’s an unmitigated good that Iran will be prevented from getting access to nuclear weapons for fifteen years, regardless of the other consequences.
And even if it wasn’t good for the Israelis, so what? The US and Israel are, after all, separate countries, with different interests, and these interests have diverged radically in recent times. The Israelis want to assert their regional hegemony by being the only nation in the Middle East to openly flaunt their nuclear arsenal: with the threat of nuclear destruction hanging over Tehran’s head, the Israelis believe – correctly – that they can get away with anything. While those days are not quite over, their end approaches.
The Iran deal will underscore the undeclared Israeli arsenal, and lead inevitably in the direction of an international effort to bring it under the aegis of the same arms control regime all signatories of the Nonproliferation Treaty are subject to. And it will lead the United Nations Security Council – and all thinking people everywhere – to ask the obvious question: Why hasn’t Israel signed the NPT?
The anti-deal forces will lose this round for the same reasons they lost the debate over Chuck Hagel’s nomination – because their arguments are so brazenly attuned to interests that have nothing to do with American interests and everything to do with the agenda of a foreign entity. An entity, need I remind you, that is increasingly hostile to the United States. After all, what kind of an “ally” names a street in its capital after someone who spied on the US – a street, I would point out, within spitting distance of the American embassy?
Yet the battle is hardly over. This is just the first phase. Phase two begins as the deal is implemented. The same media-propaganda complex that sold us the Iraq war, and tried to nix the Iran deal, is going to be all over “news” stories purporting to show Iranian cheating. Secret labs that don’t exist, forged documents that “prove” Iranian perfidy, and plenty of accounts of how Iran isn’t a Jeffersonian utopia will fill the airwaves and the pages of the “mainstream” press for the next few years, in hopes that the next President will undo what Obama has wrought.
The War Party never sleeps.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.