"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
From the moment last Wednesday when Hizbollah fighters seized two Israeli soldiers, the Bush administration immediately held Iran and Syria responsible.
The White House mounted a systematic campaign on the US airwaves to get that message across while seeking to put pressure on the G8 summit to unite in confronting those two governments.
That it has become the received wisdom in the US that Iran was directing Hizbollah to deflect international pressure on Tehran's nuclear programme, is testimony to the Bush administration's ability to dominate the discourse in the mainstream media. The crisis has also demonstrated how it can rely on the support of the US foreign policy establishment – Democrat and Republican – when it comes to matters of vital national interest to the US and Israel.
Challenging these assertions, Iranian analysts and activists in the US – both those for and against the Iranian theocracy – are warning that such simplified arguments may not only be completely erroneous, but will also complicate the process of calming down the crisis while raising the chances of a direct conflict between Iran and the US.
And there you have it. It does not matter in the slightest whether Iran is actually the puppetmaster pulling Hezbollah's strings - what matters is that the American people believe that it is so. Indeed, it is essential. The Junta desperately needs a new Saddam (or a bin Laden who will show himself and stay put), a face (to caricature) and a place (to physically threaten), and an oppressed populace to dream of liberating. Without a corporeal enemy, the populace will lose its blood fever - and, without a frightened and enraged populace, the administration loses what little remains of its grip.
Iran suits this need to a fare-thee-well. Most Americans already loathe Iran, and have since 1979. Most Americans also fear Iran, what with their presumed nuclear program, their alleged meddling in Iraq, and their influence over gasoline prices (once again, think back to 1979-81).
Now, I don't know if Iran is using Hezbollah as a proxy force or not, although I am inclined to believe that their influence is somewhat removed, at best. Nor do I know if there is actually any chance of an actual American attack on Iran, although it is clear that our military options are severely limited, given our costly entanglement in Iraq. What is clear, however, is that certain players closely associated with the administration are loudly rattling their sabers - here, for example, is William Kristol playing an old familiar tune:
We have to be ready to use military force against Iran, if it comes to that. Think what this crisis would be like given what we now know about the Islamic Republic of Iran, its regime, its recklessness, its close, close ties to terrorist groups. Think what the world wore would be like with an Iran with nuclear weapons. This is a very interesting moment in that respect. You know? We are in a way lucky that Iran has revealed its aggression, its recklessness, its terror ties before they succeeded in becoming a nuclear power. We have to stop them from getting nuclear weapons. We can try diplomacy. I am not hopeful about that. We have to be ready to use force....
[A]lso the Iranian people dislike their regime. I think they would be – the right use of targeted military force — but especially if political pressure before we use military force – could cause them to reconsider whether they really want to have this regime in power. There are even moderates – they are not wonderful people — but people in the government itself who are probably nervous about Ahmadinejad’s recklessness.
Somehow, he managed to avoid saying explicitly that American troops would be showered with flower petals.
Right or wrong (and I admit that I think Israel's bombardment and invasion of Lebanon is wrong both strategically and morally), Israel is clearly responding to a genuinely perceived threat. America, on the other hand, is not. America is merely conjuring up a bogeyman in Tehran for purposes of domestic consumption - and that's not only wrong, it's ugly and cynical.
It is not, however, surprising.
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