The Drumbeat

Bull, and rumors of bull

February 18th 2012

 It’s more than a little weird to see the Guardian, normally one of the more sensible newspapers, write a lead story that is pretty clearly informed by the growing war fever over Iran.

But in an article today, written by Chris McGreal and Conal Urquhart, it does just that, accepting without criticism the unfounded claims that Iran is developing a nuclear bomb, and utterly failing to mention that Israel has at least 25 nuclear bombs, and the United States, well over 8,000.

In other words, Israel alone could destroy every microbe on the surface of the land in every large city in Iran. The United States could so utterly destroy the country that it would retroactively vanish from all the history books. This would tend to make Iran think before pressing the button.

The article claims, thoroughly without evidence or even rationalization, that if Iran were to get nukes, then every other country in the middle east would want to get them, too. As if Israel getting nukes didn’t make her neighbors nervous. And the Bush administration had a simple message for the “evil doers” – nuke up, or the US might capriciously invade you. People noticed that Afghanistan and Iraq were invaded, but North Korea and Pakistan were not, and didn’t have much trouble concluding that the US wasn’t eager to attack nations that had nukes.

The article also declares, without a trace of irony, that if Iran were to get a nuke, it could cause a cold war. You know, that’s where heavily-armed nations distrust and lie about other nations and claim the other nations are out to destroy them. We certainly wouldn’t want that.

The Guardian article also fails to mention the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report of last November 18th. Three months ago today, they declared that there was no evidence that Iran was engaged in activity that could lead to building atomic weapons.

Funny thing about these international agencies; even when it doesn’t fit the needs of an American administration’s propaganda, they tend to be accurate. You’ll remember the UN arms inspectors claiming in 2002 and 2003 that Saddam Hussein was in full compliance, that all the listed weapons had been destroyed, and there was absolutely no evidence that Hussein was trying to rearm? It sort of annoyed the Bush administration, who was sending the pathetic General Colin Powell to swear before the UN, gawd and everybody that not only did the US have proof that Saddam had thousands of pounds of deadly nerve gas and biological agents, but that the US knew exactly how much he had, where he had it, and where he planned to deploy it.

Powell and America were lying through their goddamned teeth, and as a result, 1.4 million Iraqis died, and some 6,000 westerners. And nobody outside of Washington thinks Iraq is better off today. Even America gained nothing except a greater mountain of debt.

That was all less than ten years ago, and we’ve learned nothing. Ten years later, and we still don’t even know why America attacked Iraq. It wasn’t to avenge 9/11, because Iraq had nothing to do with that. It wasn’t because Saddam and his sons were repulsive, because the US has even viler allies in Saudi Arabia, the breakaway Republics, and parts of Central America. The US helped install Saddam in power, and it took them 30 years to discover he wasn’t a nice guy? It certainly wasn’t WMDs, because none were discovered, not even in the places Colin Powell swore they were cached. The big processing plant turned out to be a food plant, abandoned for twenty years and with a brick wall blocking the only vehicular exit. The bioweapons lab was a two-room adobe structure that lacked running water and had only a portable generator for a power supply.

The US killed over 500,000 people, wasted trillions of dollars, and got 4,400 troops killed for this, and to this day, nobody knows why. Even as Republicans whine about the size of the debt (a quarter of which comes from those unfunded wars) and complain about the soaring costs of the VA, they clamor for another war with Iran.

And the reasons to go to war with Iran are no more valid or honest than the ones proffered for war with Iraq.

Iran itself is an entirely different type of country from Iraq. At over 630,000 square miles, it’s considerably larger than Alaska, and has over 75 million people, six times as many as Iraq. Further, over 90% of the population is Shi’ite, so the divisive sectarian issues that aided the Americans in Iraq won’t be in play in Iran. While ethnically diverse, Iran doesn’t have any deep cultural divisions. The vast majority of the population is Persian, and even more speak Persian. I’m not inclined to find any way of praising their government, but there’s little doubt in my mind that they will not hesitate to fight for their country. And their economy is not hopelessly crippled by sanctions the way Saddam’s was. They can actually pay their troops.

America can barely manage to occupy a third of Afghanistan, an impoverished third-world country with only rudimentary infrastructure. How are they going to manage against 75 million proud Persians who will be virtually united in throwing out the invaders?

Israel desperately wants to attack Iran but they know that the only way they could do it is through air strikes—and most of Iran’s 19 nuclear facilities are hardened against conventional bombs. Any sort of ground assault would probably be annihilated, overlooking the 1200 kilometers of Jordan and Iraq they would have to traverse to get there. And a nuclear strike would not only alienate the world, including the United States, but could even invite a nuclear counterstrike from the Russians.

That leaves a Entebbe type strike, against a hardened target that the entire world knows must be the Israeli target. Ehud Barak openly says he wants to attack the facility at Fordow. But Iran is not Uganda, and Israel wouldn’t have the worldwide support it enjoyed back then. There’s also the problem that Fordow is adjacent to Qom, the second holiest city in Shi’a. Israeli troops would not be made to feel welcome there.

Russia is the biggest question mark in all of this. Nobody knows which way that particular cat will jump. They’ve been strong allies with Iran since 1991, and indeed, Russia has contributed heavily to Iran’s nuclear program. Further, they wouldn’t welcome a greater American incursion into what they regard as their own sphere of influence. Hegemony did not die with the Soviet Union, and Russia still seeks a warm salt-water port.

At the same time, Putin is facing increasing domestic pressure, and an oil crisis sparked by an attack on Iran would do wonders for the Russian economy. Russia has a lot of hard currency flowing in when oil tops $100 a barrel.

There is hope of rationality in the administration, though. According to a story in today’s “Bloomberg”, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff US Army General Martin Dempsey told CNN an attack wouldn’t accomplish Israel’s long-term goals, said Washington views Tehran as a rational actor, and that he believes it hasn’t decided to make a nuclear weapon.

Dempsey was quoted as saying of Israel, “A strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve their long-term objectives. I wouldn’t suggest, sitting here today, that we’ve persuaded them that our view is the correct view and that they are acting in an ill-advised fashion.”

Hopefully, the administration will listen to Dempsey. Obama certainly doesn’t want another war with an election coming up; with the economy showing slow improvement and the GOP engaged in an orgy of self-destruction, he has lots of political incentive not to get into yet another war.

At least we don’t need to worry that he’ll go off on some psychologically suspect snit because he believes Ahmadinejad plotted to kill his father.

But CNN and the Times and Faux News are all clamoring for battle, and as the Guardian showed today, that madness has a way of spreading. As someone who marched against the invasion in 2003, I know that no matter how stupid and self-defeating such a battle might appear, many people will fall for that same old war fever, over and over, and never mind the cost and futility.

The key, of course, is Barack Obama. Can he stand against the tide?

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