Banging the Drums of War: Iran and the Neo-cons

All the Usual Suspects

In the last few years Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, Norman Podhoretz of Commentary, Charles Krauthammer of The Washinton Post, Bill Kristol from the The Weekly Standard and Thomas Friedman of The New York Times have all clamored for an attack on Iran. The debate has been shaped. Do we or don’t we attack Iran in order to destroy or delay their supposed nuclear weapons program.

All the usual suspects that hyped a war in Iraq which was started on false precepts and lies.  Here are some excerpts from their new project.

Kristol (The Weekly Standard)

“In a speech to the House of Commons in late 1936, Winston Churchill warned, “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”

Podhoretz (Commentary)

“It now remains to be seen whether this President,… will find it possible to take the only action that can stop Iran from following through on its evil intentions both toward us and toward Israel. As an American and as a Jew, I pray with all my heart that he will.”

Goldberg (The Atlantic)

“..a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people.”

Krauthammer (The Washington Post)
“..Iran, which is frantically enriching uranium to make a bomb, and which our own State Department identifies as the greatest exporter of terrorism in the world.”

Friedman (The New York Times 2008)

On how Obama should deal with Iran "a Dick Cheney standing over his right shoulder, quietly pounding a baseball bat into his palm."


There is a question we must ask before even beginning to discuss the Iranian nuclear problem. Why do we allow the same people who fought the ideological battle for the invasion of Iraq to continue to shape American foreign policy? From reading these gentlemen’s pieces you would think the Iraq war were a great success. Instead, it's the largest foreign policy blunder in our history. One would expect these journalists to be shunned and stripped of their soapboxes considering the tremendous amount of blood they have on their hands. Let us not forget the consequences of this tragic, unprovoked war.

Iraqi Civilian Causalities   -    97,176 est.

US Military Causalities    -       4,415

Iraqi Military Causalities  -     15,000 est.

Total Dead                          116,591

This of course does not include wounded, homeless, the millions of Iraqi refugees or the almost $1 trillion that the war in Iraq has cost so far.

It's fascinating that one of the biggest debates we have today is not how we allowed AIPAC and the neo-cons to manipulate the 9/11 tragedy into what many see as a proxy war for Israel. On the contrary, now a new war campaign has begun calling for more bombing, death and destruction.  Are there any consequences for American journalists? If you tend not to agree with the special relationship between Israel and the United States there are.

When a journalists like Helen Thomas clearly states that she is anti-Zionist and does not believe Israel has the right to create Jewish state in the midst of a land historically occupied by Palestinians, she is banished, at the age of 89. Of course, her choice of words was unfortunate, but in most cases a grateful country will give one of its most trailblazing journalists a break for a poorly worded statement  made at a very advanced age. But not Helen Thomas.  Ari Fleisher took time off from representing Tiger Woods and Mark Magwire to lobby hard to have her fired.

Lets not forget some of Ari’s statements on Iraq.

Ari Fleisher
Press Briefing
March 21, 2003

"Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly . . . all this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes."

If someone was to call for the head of Helen Thomas, maybe a person with a little less blood on their hands might have been more appropriate.

Octavia Nasr was CNN's Senior Middle East News Editor and had worked for the network for 20 years. When Sayyed Mohammed Hussein, a very influential and beloved religious Shiite figure died, she made the mistake of making this very controversial Tweet "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah . . . . One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot."  She was fired within days.

Framing the Debate

What's most amazing about the ideological support for an attack on Iran is how we have not even begun to debate how and why we went into Iraq. During the 1970’s the United States went through a deep and painful period of introspection regarding Vietnam. Mysteriously, the debate on Iraq has simply morphed into a debate on Iran. Where is the national dispute on how, why, and who is to blame for this deadly, devastating debacle?

In a fascinating study done by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris, subjects are asked to watch a short video of a group people passing a basketball between them and are told to count the number of passes. A person dressed in a gorilla suit walks through the screen. After the test, the subjects are asked if they saw anything out the ordinary. Amazingly, 50% of the subjects did not see the gorilla.  By concentrating on what they are told to look at, they are blind to the gorilla.

The sacred cows, or taboos, are the gorillas. Our media, politicians, and academics tell us to watch the ball (bombings, surges, draw downs, new generals, old generals, what Obama says, what Limbaugh says, what Biden says, what Fox says, what CNN says) but what we should focus on is what they don’t say. What they don’t mention is precisely the gorilla. And the gorilla in this case is the special relationship with Israel. When it is brought up, we are told to focus on another ball.   As soon as someone asks the very simple question. Why are we supporting Israel? What do we get out of it?  They are told to look at the ball called anti-Semitism.

The real debate, the logical debate, is off limits. That is why we can’t really talk about why we went into Iraq in the first place. When anyone begins to connect the dots: Neo-Cons, AIPAC, Israel, The Project for a New America, it becomes clear that this war was a gross manipulation of the fear caused by 9/11 in an effort to somehow marry Israel’s foreign policy goals with America’s. But no major media outlet ever broaches the taboo. From Fox to CNN, from The New York Times to The New Republic, The New Yorker to the Weekly Standard, Obama to Palin, all agree;  America must have a special relationship with Israel. Our foreign policy is obliged to ensure the safety and well being of the Jewish state. (see The End of the Republic ). The real problem for the Republic is not even what our foreign policy is, the real cancer is that there is no debate at all about it's single most important premise.


Admadinejad is certainly an unsavory character, and his holocaust denying, the political repression, hangings and anti-Semitic rants are pitiful and abhorrent. But then again, the United States has no moral footing to question Iran’s democratic credentials after the CIA orchestrated a coup to overthrow the the democratically-elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953.

The western media has made much of the opposition movement to Ahmadinejad but few have really investigated who won the elections there.

“Though widely ignored by the major American news media, a recent study by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland found little evidence to support allegations of fraud, nor to conclude that most Iranians view President Ahmadinejad as illegitimate.

IPA analyzed multiple polls of the Iranian public from three different sources, including some before the June 12, 2009 election and some afterwards. The study found that in all the polls, a majority said they planned to vote for Ahmadinejad or had voted for him. The numbers ranged from 52 to 57 percent just before the election to 55 to 66 percent after the election.”

What is the threat to the United States if Iran gets a nuclear weapon? The most pessimistic predictions for a Iran to have a fully operational weapon are at least three years. A deal was worked out between Turkey, Brasil and Iran in which to Erdogan and Lula da Silva convinced Ahmadinejad to agree a deal originally proposed by the Obama administration to ship 2,640 pounds of Iran’s low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for higher-enriched uranium that could only be used for peaceful medical uses.

When the deal was announced, Washington and the neo-con media were not happy. Friedman in the New York Times.

“I confess that when I first saw the May 17 picture of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, joining his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with raised arms — after their signing of a putative deal to defuse the crisis over Iran’s nuclear weapons program — all I could think of was: Is there anything uglier than watching democrats sell out other democrats to a Holocaust-denying, vote-stealing Iranian thug just to tweak the U.S. and show that they, too, can play at the big power table?

“No, that’s about as ugly as it gets.”

I wonder if Mr. Friedman has looked at any photographs from Iraq lately?

Washington also balked. Hillary Clinton “Every step of the way has demonstrated clearly to the world that Iran is not participating in the international arena in the way that we had asked them to do and that they continued to pursue their nuclear program,”

So what is the real agenda?  A negotiated deal or regime change. The similarities to Iraq are striking but no alarms are going off. Why?

The most important discussion should be what is the threat to the United States if Iran gets a nuclear weapon three years from now.

Israel’s Nukes

Israel has close to 100 nuclear weapons stored at its Dimona facility yet no American president has ever publicly mentioned Israel’s nuclear weapons. At the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the final statement criticized Israel for not joining the Non Proliferation Treaty. The double standard rose its ugly head. Obama’s statement at the close of the treaty.

“The United States has long supported such a [nuclear-free Middle East] zone, although our view is that a comprehensive and durable peace in the region and full compliance by all regional states with their arms control and nonproliferation obligations are essential precursors for its establishment. We strongly oppose efforts to single out Israel, and will oppose actions that jeopardize Israel’s national security,”

But Israel is different, they would never proliferate nuclear weapons, they are America’s best friend, the only democracy in the Middle East. Well, they are a democracy if you weren’t born in what is now Israel as a Palestinian. The Guardian reported recently on how declassified apartheid era documents show that Israel tried to sell nuclear weapons to South Africa. “Secret South African documents reveal that Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime, providing the first official documentary evidence of the state's possession of nuclear weapons."

Interesting to see the spin the story was given in The New York Times.

Israel Denies It Offered South Africa Warheads

JERUSALEM — The office of Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, strongly denied Monday that Mr. Peres, as Israel’s defense minister, offered to sell nuclear warheads to South Africa in 1975, as reported by The Guardian.

Hard to make that case that Iran is the evil one if Israel is proliferating nuclear weapons to apartheid regimes.

The Real Debate

Instead of debating the pros and cons of another war against a country that has done us no harm, nor has said it will, we should focus on why we are so entangled in the Middle East in the first place.

Is it oil? Less than 17% of US oil imports come from the Middle East, and only Saudi Arabia represents an important part of our oil needs.

Crude Oil Imports   (Top 15 Countries)
                            (Thousand Barrels per Day)

Country                                   May-10

CANADA                               1,997   
MEXICO                                1,290
SAUDI ARABIA                    1,093
VENEZUELA                         1,011
NIGERIA                                1,004
ANGOLA                                  423
IRAQ                                         394
RUSSIA                                     358
ALGERIA                                  352
BRAZIL                                     312
COLOMBIA                              295
KUWAIT                                   219
ECUADOR                                160
NORWAY                                   78

Finding new sources for 17% of our imported oil  through diplomacy, alternative energies and improved efficiency seems like a much more practical strategy than ‘bringing democracy’ to the Middle East.

The other argument is that Israel is America’s best ally, the only democracy in the Middle East. American foreign policy has never put a big premium on democracy ie Chile, Iran, Guatemala, Cuba.  United States foreign policy always has been about its own interests. Israel’s military is ranked 11th in the world, yet they are ranked 40th in GDP, so it is safe to say they are armed to the teeth as well as having a massive nuclear arsenal.

It is strange to think that Israel receives around $3 billion in US aid per year when they have a per capita GDP of around $30,000, almost the same as Italy. Could you imagine the uproar if Nancy Pelosi and Rudy Guliani somehow finagled sending Italy $3 billion a year in aid? Israel does not need American foreign aid or military aid. They are a wealthy country with an extremely potent military.

So why does the US spend so much of its foreign policy capital on Israel? The US population is less the 2% Jewish, the vast majority of which have no roots in Israel. The two main culprits are AIPAC and the neo-cons. The power of AIPAC is frightening.

“In the latest spat between Jerusalem and Washington, AIPAC wrote a letter “implicitly rebuking the Obama Administration for its confrontational stance toward Israel.” It was signed by 76 Senators (33 Democrats) who normally can’t agree on the time of day.”

And the US media is incapable of openly questioning the ‘special relationship’. No major newspaper or media outlet has a columnist who consistently calls for an end to US support for Israel and the beginning of new, neutral relationship. As a nation, the US must ask itself what it gets in return for fighting the war in Iraq and using its foreign policy capital on issues like Iran instead of focusing on Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia.

The bottom line is not about being a Zionist or anti-Zionist. If American Zionists want to send their money to Israel and send the sons and daughters to fight for Israel, that is their right. But when a small group manipulates American media and foreign policy so that American troops kill and our killed to carry out a Zionist agenda, then there is a problem.

Just as Helen Thomas and Octavia Nasr where run out of their jobs for the great damage their words caused, it's time voices where raised calling for the same treatment for the war mongers at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Weekly Standard, The Atlantic and Commentary. The same can be said for AIPAC.

An amazingly frank example of the power the Israeli government has over our foreign policy came in early 2009 as the Israeli attack on Gaza raged.   The US was going to vote, along with the other members of the UN Security Council for a a cease fire resolution that Condelezza Rice had helped draft.  In a very candid speech, Isreali Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described what happened next, as reported in The New York Times.

"In the night between Thursday and Friday, when the secretary of state wanted to lead the vote on a ceasefire at the Security Council, we did not want her to vote in favour," Mr Olmert said  "I said 'get me President Bush on the phone'. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn't care. 'I need to talk to him now'. He got off the podium and spoke to me.  "I told him the United States could not vote in favour. It cannot vote in favour of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favour... She was left pretty embarrassed.”

She abstained, the only abstention on the Security Council.  It's almost inconcievable to imagine the uproar if Sarkozy, Tony Blair, or any other ally ever said this to the press.  It would be world news.  Fodder for columnists, politicians, and even comics.  Amazingly, this is not a well known or even talked about event.

Logic seems to have been lost. Those who shout the truth are branded as mad, and those who cry for more madness are considered sane.

"MUCH madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
’T is the majority
In this, as all, prevails.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur,—you ’re straightway dangerous,
And handled with a chain." --Emily Dickinson

1 comment:

  1. This is a powerful essay that leaves one with much to think about. The Emily Dickinson poem is a favorite of mine and shows the relevance and universality of early American writers.