Rank Ignorance Reigns

In keeping with its established role as purveyor of disinformation, Fox “News” talking head Brit Hume misreported Fox’s own poll. On Special Report on Jan. 26, Hume said that 51 percent of Americans “would now support” air strikes on Iran. What the poll found is that if diplomacy fails, 51 percent would support air strikes [.pdf].

Can we be optimistic and assume that the American public would not regard an orchestrated failure by the Bush administration as a true diplomatic failure? Alas, we cannot expect too much from a population in thrall to disinformation.

The “evidence” that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons consists of mere assertion by members of the Bush administration and the neoconservative media. Iran says it is not pursuing nuclear weapons, and the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have found no evidence of a weapons program.

Iran is a signatory to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. Under the treaty, signatories have the right to develop nuclear energy. All they are required to do is to make reports to the IAEA and keep their facilities open to inspection. Iran complies with these requirements.

There is no Iranian “defiance.” When news media report “defiance,” they purvey disinformation. The “seals” on Iranian nuclear facilities were placed there voluntarily by the Iranians while they attempted to resolve the false charges brought by the Bush administration.

The “Iran crisis” is entirely the product of the Bush administration’s determination to deprive Iran of its rights as a signatory of the nonproliferation treaty. It is one more demonstration of President Bush’s belief that his policies are not constrained by fact, law, and international treaties.

Despite the clear and unambiguous facts, the Fox/Opinion Dynamics poll reports that 60 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independents, and 36 percent of Democrats support using air strikes and ground troops against Iran in order to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. This poll indicates an appalling extent of ignorance and misinformation among the American public. The Bush administration will take advantage of this ignorance to initiate another war in the Middle East.

A majority of Americans have now been deceived twice on the same issue. Just as there was no evidence that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons, there is no evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. There is nothing but unproven assertions, assertions, moreover, that are contradicted by the evidence that does exist. Americans, it would appear, are so eager for wars that they welcome being fooled into them.

One wonders, also, where the 60 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independents, and 36 percent of Democrats think the U.S. will find the ground troops with which to invade Iran. As the three-year-old “cakewalk war” in Iraq has made completely clear, the U.S. does not have enough ground troops to successfully occupy Iraq and to suppress a small insurgency drawn from a Sunni population of 5 million people.

We hear report after report from military authorities that the Iraq war is straining our armed forces to the breaking point. For example, a Pentagon study by Andrew Krepinevich concludes that the U.S. Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency.

Every military expert knows this to be true, although few dare to say it. If the U.S. military is on the breaking point from trying to deal with an insurgency drawn from 5 million people, how can Bush send ground troops into vastly larger Iran with a population of 70 million people? It boggles the mind that a majority of Americans favor an impossible policy.

Another recent poll, a LA Times/Bloomberg poll, finds that 57 percent of the respondents “favor military intervention if Iran’s government pursues a program that could enable it to build nuclear arms.” Of these same respondents, 53 percent believe it was not worth going to war against Iraq.

The poll thus reveals the American public as grist for the neoconservatives’ war mill. If a country can produce material for nuclear energy, it can, with additional facilities and knowledge, produce material for nuclear weapons. Thus, if Iran exercises its rights under the nonproliferation treaty, 57 percent of Americans support a US military attack on Iran!

American politicians, whose strings are pulled by the American-Israeli Political Action Committee despite AIPAC’s current engulfment in spying charges against the U.S., are demanding that the U.S. attack Iran in order to protect Israel.

One excuse for these demands is the statement by the new Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Europeans should give Israel a piece of Europe and move the country there. His statement that Israel should be wiped out is a statement intended for Muslim ears, not a declaration of an Iranian program of action. The Iranian president is simply elevating Iran’s standing among Muslims by taking advantage of the anger that President Bush has created against the U.S. and Israel.

The notion that Iran might march into Israel is laughable. Iran has four routes into Israel: through Turkey and Syria, through Iraq and Syria, through Iraq and Jordan (or Lebanon), and through Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Three of these routes are foreclosed by U.S. troops on the ground, and the fourth by the Turkish army.

Moreover, Israel has never signed the nonproliferation treaty, and, unlike Iran, Israel does have nuclear weapons. An Iranian invasion of Israel could be fatal for Iran.

Why, then, is the American population being whipped up by the Bush administration and Fox “News” into war hysteria against Iran?

Fox is aggressively agitating for war with Iran. On shows such as Hannity and Colmes, guest after guest – Newt Gingrich, various retired generals, pundits, and even Democratic politicians – agitate for attacking Iran.

For example, on Jan. 26 and 27, liberal Democrat Bob Beckel said on Fox that the U.S. has “a moral obligation to take out what we could of Iran’s nuclear capabilities.” Newt Gingrich said that the Iranian “dictatorship” is “too dangerous to leave it in charge of one of the world’s largest supplies of oil.”

On Jan. 27 Democratic strategist Pat Caddell expressed mystification as to how strongly the polls surged, literally overnight, in support for attacking Iran.

One wonders if Americans ever think of the consequences of the rash actions they favor. The Bush administration has placed Iraq in the hands of the majority Shia, who are allied with Iran, which is allied with Hezbollah, the strongest military force in Lebanon, which is friendly to Hamas, the new Palestinian authority. What response might a U.S. attack on Iran bring from the Shia population in Iraq? What terrorism might Iran unleash throughout the Middle East? What U.S. puppets might fall? What consequences might follow if Iran not only shuts off Iranian oil, but knocks out facilities throughout the region and blocks oil flows from the Middle East?

Compared to attacking Iran, attacking Iraq was a small, if reckless, risk. Nevertheless, the unexpected consequences of the U.S. invasion of Iraq have prevented the Bush administration from achieving its goals.

Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda must be marveling at the rank stupidity of the American people. Maybe Fox “News” only pretends to be the Ministry of War Propaganda for the Bush administration and is in the employ of al-Qaeda instead.

War is not strengthening America’s position in the Middle East, as gains by extremists in Palestinian, Iraqi, Pakistani, and Egyptian elections attest. There is no prospect of the Bush administration imposing its will on the Middle East. To paraphrase Gingrich, if Bush and the neocons don’t know this by now, they are too dangerous to leave in charge of the U.S. government.

Read more by Paul Craig Roberts