The Politics of Paranoia
The Great, International, Truly Demonic Iran Threat
By WILLIAM BLUM
The United States is "facing a nuclear threat in Iran" — article in Chicago Tribune and other major newspapers, May 26
"the growing missile threat from North Korea and Iran" — article in the Washington Post and other major newspapers, May 26
"Iran's threat transcends religion. Regardless of sectarian bent, Muslim communities need to oppose the attempts by Iran ... to extend Shia extremism and influence throughout the world." — op-ed article in Boston Globe, May 27
"A Festering Evil. Doing nothing is not an option in handling the threat from Iran" — headline in Investor's Business Daily, May 27, 2009
This is a very small sample from American newspapers covering but two days.
"Fifty-one percent of Israelis support an immediate Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear sites" — BBC, May 24
After taking office, on Holocaust Memorial Day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "We will not allow Holocaust-deniers [Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] to carry out another holocaust." — Haaretz (Israel), May 14, 2009
Like clinical paranoia, "the threat from Iran" is impervious to correction by rational argument.
Two new novels have just appeared, from major American publishers, thrillers based on Iran having a nuclear weapon and the dangers one can imagine that that portends — "Banquo's Ghosts" by Rich Lowry & Keith Korman, and "The Increment" by David Ignatius. "Bomb, bomb, bomb. Let's bomb Iran," declares a CIA official in the latter book. The other book derides the very idea of "dialogue" with Iran while implicitly viewing torture as acceptable.1
On May 12, in New York City, a debate was held on the proposition that "Diplomacy With Iran Is Going Nowhere" (English translation: "Should we bomb Iran?"). Arguing in the affirmative, were Liz Cheney, former State Department official (and daughter of a certain unindicted war criminal) and Dan Senor, formerly the top spokesman for Washington's Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. Their "opponents" were R. Nicholas Burns, former undersecretary of state, and Kenneth Pollack, former National Security Council official and CIA analyst and author of "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq", a book that, unsurprisingly, did not have too long a shelf life.2
This is what "debate" on US foreign policy looks like in America in the first decade of the 21st century AD — four quintessential establishment figures. If such a "debate" had been held in the Soviet Union during the Cold War ("Detente With The United States Is Going Nowhere"), the American mainstream media would unanimously have had a jolly time making fun of it. The sponsor of the New York debate was the conservative Rosenkranz Foundation, but if a liberal (as opposed to a progressive or radical leftist) organization had been the sponsor, while there probably would have been a bit more of an ideological gap between the chosen pairs of speakers, it's unlikely that any of the present-day myths concerning Iran would have been seriously challenged by either side. These myths include the following, all of which I've dealt with before in this report but inasmuch as they are repeated on a regular basis in the media and by administration representatives, I think that readers need to be reminded of the counter arguments.
- Iran has no right to nuclear weapons: Yet, there is no international law that says that the US, the UK, Russia, China, Israel, France, Pakistan, and India are entitled to nuclear weapons, but Iran is not. Iran has every reason to feel threatened. In any event, the US intelligence community's National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of December 2007, "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities", makes a point of saying in bold type and italics: “This NIE does not assume that Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons.” The report goes on to state: "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program ."
- Ahmadinejad is a Holocaust denier: I have yet to read of Ahmadinejad saying simply, clearly, unambiguously, and unequivocally that he thinks that what we know as the Holocaust never happened. He has instead commented about the peculiarity and injustice of a Holocaust which took place in Europe resulting in a state for the Jews in the Middle East instead of in Europe. Why are the Palestinians paying a price for a German crime? he asks. And he has questioned the figure of six million Jews killed by Nazi Germany, as have many other people of all political stripes.
- Ahmadinejad has called for violence against Israel: His 2005 remark re "wiping Israel off the map", besides being a very questionable translation, has been seriously misinterpreted, as evidenced by the fact that the following year he declared: “The Zionist regime will be wiped out soon, the same way the Soviet Union was, and humanity will achieve freedom.”3 Obviously, he was not calling for any kind of violent attack upon Israel, for the dissolution of the Soviet Union took place peacefully.
- Iran has no right to provide arms to Hamas and Hezbollah: However, the United States, we are assured, has every right to do the same for Israel and Egypt.
- The fact that Obama says he's willing to "talk" to some of the "enemies" like Iran more than the Bush administration did sounds good: But one doesn't have to be too cynical to believe that it will not amount to more than a public relations gimmick. It's only change of policy that counts. Why doesn't Obama just state that he would not attack Iran unless Iran first attacked the US or Israel or anyone else? Besides, the Bush administration met with Iran on several occasions.
The following should also be kept in mind: The Washington Post, March 5, 2009, reported: "A senior Israeli official in Washington" has asserted that "Iran would be unlikely to use its missiles in an attack [against Israel] because of the certainty of retaliation." This was the very last sentence in the article and, according to an extensive Nexis search, did not appear in any other English-language media in the world.
In 2007, in a closed discussion, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that in her opinion "Iranian nuclear weapons do not pose an existential threat to Israel." She "also criticized the exaggerated use that [Israeli] Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is making of the issue of the Iranian bomb, claiming that he is attempting to rally the public around him by playing on its most basic fears." This appeared in Haaretz.com, October 25, 2007 (print edition October 26), but not in any US media or in any other English-language world media except the BBC citing the Iranian Mehr English-language news agency, October 27.
William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World's Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.
He can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com
1. Washington Post, May 26, 2009 book review.
2. Washington Post, May 15, 2009.
3. Associated Press, December 12, 2006.