Still digesting their recent and ongoing aggressions in the Middle East, the Bush and Israeli regimes now threaten to attack Iran. As these warrior states cast their long shadow across the region, they find themselves aided and abetted by the Security Council, the other major powers, parties of the opposition, and the media.
The ease with which a supposedly independent media in a supposedly democratic society like the United States can demonize enemies and convert third- and fourth-rate official targets into major threats is almost beyond belief. And the collective amnesia of the establishment media enables them to do the same thing over and over again; they never learn, and most important never have to learn, because the collective amnesia they help instill in the society protects them against correction: an unending series of victories over memory in the exercise of "reality-control" (Orwell). This enables the media to serve as de facto propaganda agents of their state while still claiming to be independent watchdogs. Less than three years ago, in 2004, the New York Times and Washington Post were hardly alone in offering partial mea culpas for having swallowed and regurgitated Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Powell-Rice lies about Saddam Hussein’s menacing weapons of mass destruction (WMD),2 thereby making a major contribution to the criminal and costly quagmire they now bemoan (but, along with Bush, still declining to urge any quick exit or meaningful withdrawal.) And yet they had barely gotten out their apologies before they eagerly climbed aboard the Bush-Cheney-Rice-Olmert bandwagon on the Iran menace and urgent need to do something about that grave threat.
And what a threat it is! Admittedly, Iran doesn’t possess a single nuclear weapon, and won’t have one for some years even if it is trying to get one, which its religious leaders vigorously deny. If it got a nuclear weapon it couldn’t use it except in desperate self-defense as both Israel and the United States have many nuclear bombs and superior delivery systems, so that any offensive use of its nuclear weapon(s) would entail Iranian national suicide. It may be recalled that Saddam used his WMD only against Iran and his Kurds, but not even in self-defense during the 1991 Persian Gulf war attack on Iraq by the United States and its "coalition": the former use was with U.S. approval, the latter case of non-use was because Saddam would have suffered disproportionate retaliation by the United States and his restraint followed. This point is not made in the establishment media, possibly because it would seem to qualify the Iran nuclear menace.
The media also do not draw the further inference that an Iranian nuclear weapon would therefore serve only as a means of self-defense and to give Iran a little more leverage in dealing with the nuclear power states: the United States and Israel: that openly threaten it. Instead, the media, following the official line, talk about an Iranian nuclear weapon as "destabilizing," when what they really mean is that the Israeli-U.S. continuous war-making, ethnic cleansing, and deliberate and effective destabilization of the Middle East would be made more difficult.
Of course, in the demonization tradition, the media feature the special menace of the evil men who run the Iranian state. In the good old days the trick was to tie them to the Evil Empire (the Guatemalan leadership in 1954, the Sandinistas in the 1980s, and in fact any national liberation movement or uncooperative leader who might have sought arms from the Soviet Union), carefully avoiding any awkward earlier support the United States might have given the evil man when he was doing its bidding (Noriega, Saddam in the 1980s and earlier). The media play this game well and regularly perform in the manner that would fit comfortably into the world of Big Brother, where "any past or future agreement [with the demonized enemy] was impossible….The Party said that Oceania had never been in alliance with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasia so short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated." In the case of the Iraq war the technique has been simply to play dumb and never mention the earlier alliance between "Oceania" (the United States) and "Eurasia"(Iraq).
In the Iran case, its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has done yeoman service in facilitating the demonization process, although the media have distorted his remarks, misrepresented his power, and generally provided a misleading context to meet the demands of demonization. Ahmadinejad allegedly proclaimed that "Israel must be wiped off the map of the world," a threat proving how dangerous Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon would be for Israel; the former Israeli Prime Minister and Likud Party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu currently leads a campaign calling for Ahmadinejad’s indictment on the charge of inciting genocide against the Jewish state.3 But it has been shown that Ahmadinejad did not threaten Israel with violence in his October 26, 2005 address before the World Without Zionism conference. Rather, to commemorate International Quds Day, he quoted a number of passages from Ayatollah Khomeini, and in one of these quotes, Khomeini had predicted the passing or ending or vanishing of the Israeli occupation of Quds (i.e., Jerusalem) from the pages of time.4 Furthermore, Ahmadinejad does not rule Iran and does not have the power to go to war against Israel: that power lies with the Mullahs, as the New York Times and others deign to mention when the Mullahs are criticizing Ahmadinejad and thus points can be scored against him.5
On the other hand, both Israel and the United States have leaderships greatly influenced by religious groups whose principles encourage and welcome violent expansionism and even apocalyptic, "end-time" scenarios. The media do not mention U.S. and Israeli religious fanaticism as posing any kind of regional or global existential threat. Nor do they discuss or express great concern over the fact that whereas a few nuclear weapons would only help Iran to deter other states from attacking it, the United States and Israel could use nuclear weapons against Iran without committing national suicide. And both of these nuclear states threaten and reportedly have very active plans for such an attack.6 In the Kafka Era, while such credible plans and threats disappear, the mythical threat to wipe Israel "off the map" is placed front and center, helping make the real threat politically more feasible.
These media failures are closely related to the power of the pro-Israel Lobby in the United States, which has paralyzed the Democratic Party and made it into an ally of Bush administration hardliners pushing for an attack on Iran. Israeli leaders want a war with Iran, preferably with the United States doing the fighting, and this translates into Lobby pressures and hence Democratic leaders jumping on the war bandwagon, often trying to outdo the Republicans. U.S. Senator John Edwards told a recent conference on the "Balance of Israel‘s National Security" that the "rise of Islamic radicalism, use of terrorism, and the spread of nuclear technology and weapons of mass destruction represent an unprecedented threat to the world and Israel." He immediately added: "At the top of these threats is Iran. Iran threatens the security of Israel and the entire world. Let me be clear: Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons."7
Edwards is far from alone. Prior to winning election to the Senate in 2004, Illinois‘ Barack Obama told the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune that "launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in. On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse." Last October, New York Senator Hillary Clinton told the Council on Foreign Relations that "U.S. policy must be unequivocal. Iran must not build or acquire nuclear weapons….We have to keep all options on the table…." More recently, Indiana’s Democratic Senator and one-time presidential hopeful Evan Bayh called Iran "everything we thought Iraq was but wasn’t. They are seeking nuclear weapons, they do support terrorists, they have threatened to destroy Israel, and they’ve threatened us, too."8
Coming from the "opposition" party, comments such as these and the assumptions and beliefs which they betray help to reinforce the establishment’s party-line about the "existential" threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to Israel and to the "stability" of the entire Middle East. Thus the rapidity with which Iran has assumed the role formerly occupied by Iraq within the reigning demonology helps to reinvigorate a war-supportive climate just when public disaffection with the Iraq war has sharpened. In the November 2006 elections, the American public voted against the continuation of the Iraq war, and most certainly would oppose their government’s expansion of the war to Iran.9 But with the Democrats neutralized and in the absence of a truly mass opposition movement, the public remains irrelevant to this decision-making process: It can be ushered along belatedly, as the bombs begin falling and it is called upon to support "our troops." That worked for some years in the case of the Iraq invasion-occupation.
As With the Iraqi WMD Hoax, Iran’s Alleged "Threat to the Peace" Serves To Cover Over the Real Threat Posed to Iran by the United States and Israel
In retrospect, it is crystal clear that the alleged threat of Iraq‘s WMD was a cover, long in the making, for a U.S.-British plan to conquer and occupy Iraq, with WMD selected as the sexiest, most saleable marketing device around which this planned violation of the UN Charter was "fixed." In that episode, the United States and Britain also clearly used the UN as a means of facilitating their attack. But this recent history, none of it more than five years old, had no effect in preventing a closely analogous rerun of that scenario in a run-up to a planned U.S.-Israeli attack and possible attempt at another "regime change" in violation of the UN Charter.
Consider some of the relevant facts:
1. Iran has never once moved beyond its borders in an act of aggression since the organization of the UN and widespread acceptance of the UN Charter as fundamental international law. This, of course, has not prevented Henry Kissinger from describing the "Iranian combination of imperialism and fundamentalist ideology" as a threat to the "region on which the energy supplies of the industrial democracies depend," a threat for which the counterweight of "American forces are indispensable."10 Nor has Iran’s non-aggressive history prevented a wide array of commentators from repeating the views expressed by the Director of National Intelligence in testimony before the Senate on January 11, when he warned of the "shadow" that Iran now casts across the Middle East; by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who warned of an "emboldened and strengthened Iran;" or by George Bush, who, in his two major speeches in January, warned of an Iran "emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons" (January 10), a new axis emerging "out of chaos in Iraq,…an emboldened enemy with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to harm America" (January 23).11
On the other hand, while despite all this noisy rhetoric Iran has stayed at home, it has been attacked by Iraq in a war of aggression that was actively supported by the United States and Britain. The United States also organized a coup in Iran in 1953 that replaced a democratic with a dictatorial regime. The Security Council stood by and did nothing in the face of these U.S.-supported violations of the UN Charter.
2. The United States and Israel have both engaged in numerous cross-border invasions and occupations in violation of the UN Charter, most recently the United States (and Britain) attacking and occupying Iraq, and Israel bombing and invading Lebanon. The UN Security Council not only failed to do anything punitive in the face of these open violations of the UN Charter, it actually ratified the U.S. occupation: whereas it had quickly forced Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991 as a matter of course, given Iraq’s violation of the UN Charter and the importance of adherence to the rule of law!12
3. Iran has not threatened to attack the United States: which it couldn’t do anyway, any more than Iraq could have attacked this country in 2003: and it has not threatened to attack Israel, although Iran has promised to retaliate for an attack against its territory, and President Ahmadinejad has made hostile remarks about Israel and expressed the wish that Israel would disappear as an apartheid state. As noted, his statement was misrepresented by the Western media as part of the demonization process, the media also failing across the board to note the limits of Ahmadinejad’s power in Iran, and the reasons why any offensive effort by Iran against Israel would be suicidal.
4. In contrast with Iran‘s bluster but non-threats, both the United States and Israel have made quite open threats to attack Iran, with U.S. officials speaking regularly of their objective as "regime change" in Tehr