Dear New York Times,
OK, OK, we get the picture: you want the United States to attack Iran. Why don’t you go ahead and put a permanent banner across the top of the front page with the Cato-like adjuration: “Iran Must Be Destroyed!” Or maybe you could just tack it on to every single story: “Yankees Trade to Bolster Outfield; Iran Must Be Destroyed.” “Mixed Results for Apple I-Pad; Iran Must Be Destroyed.” “Markets Anxious Over Health Care Vote; Iran Must Be Destroyed.” “New Bistro Revels in Bohemian Ambience; Iran Must Be Destroyed.”
After all, hardly a week goes by now without some big juicy piece of Times scaremongery about Iran’s nuclear program, usually with the same image of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a lab coat looking blankly at metal tubes. The thrust of these stories is always the same: Iran is galloping toward nuclear weaponhood — a “global threat” that “cannot be allowed to stand.” Last week, it was Bill Broad, goosing the rubes with this little number, a supposed “science” piece: For Iran, Enriching Uranium Only Gets Easier.
For a moment, let’s put aside the fact of Iran’s persistent denials of a desire for nuclear weapons — including the explicit, repeated statements of the theocracy’s supreme religious and political leader that such weapons are anathema. And let’s put aside the fact that despite the most extensive and intrusive inspection regime in the history of atomic energy development, there is no evidence whatsoever that Iran is not doing exactly what it says it is doing: developing non-weaponized nuclear power for peaceful purposes. These are just facts, after all — and facts, as the sainted Ronald Reagan once told us, are stupid things.
But even if we were to grant the fevered fantasies of our masturbatory militarists the slightest tincture of credibility — or even take their brazen propaganda as gospel truth — they have never yet explained exactly why Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons would be a greater “global threat” than, say, the bristling arsenals produced by the illegal, covert, crimeful programs in Israel, India and Pakistan. Nor are we told why an ill-gotten Iranian bomb would be worse than the vast “legal” nuclear arsenals of Russia, China, France, Great Britain and, of course, the only nation in the history of the world that has actually used nuclear weapons to slaughter hundreds of thousands of defenseless civilians, the United States of America.
Or to put it another way, in the immortal words of Arthur Silber: “So Iran Gets Nukes. So What?” (For more, see note below.)
But as we’ve mentioned here often before, “there is literally nothing that Iran can do – or not do – to divert the American elite’s desire to strike at their land and bring it under domination.” They are of course already waging secret, slow-motion war against Iran right now, and have been for many years, with sanctions, terrorist campaigns and covert operations. The only real debate within the power structure is when and how to accelerate — or “surge” — this war into a broader, more overt campaign. “Moderates” opt for continuing the gradualist approach until such time as the bond markets — and other financial arbiters of our fate — signal their relative comfort with the move; “hawks” — many of whom have vested interests in the “security industry” which reaps such vast profit from war and rumors of war — press relentlessly for immediate action.
But whatever their stripe, there is no third way among our elites on the question of Iran, nothing beyond the notion that Iran must be “dealt with” — harshly, stringently — until it is once more under Western sway. And it is this latter recalcitrance — which is shared both by the present Tehran regime and its dissidents — that makes Iran a “rogue” nation, not its internal political repression (which is less severe than some staunch American allies) nor its reputed “support for terrorism” (an oft-used tool of the United States and its allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia), nor even Ahmadinejad’s non-existent calls for Israel to be “destroyed” or his Holocaust revisionism (both of which have long been propagated in far more virulent forms among staunch American allies such as Saudi Arabia, or America’s favorite partner for Middle East peace talks, the unelected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a vile Holocaust revisionist for decades — but now regarded as the most “genuine and serious” partner imaginable for the Jewish state, according to no less than Tom “Suck On This” Friedman).
But these facts do not matter in the slightest. The American media — corporatized and homogenized to a fare-thee-well — simply regurgitate whatever fantasy scenario our masters come up with to keep the domination agenda careening drunkenly down the road. These scenarios don’t have to be plausible; they don’t even have to make sense or have the slightest bit of internal consistency. And they can change literally overnight — as we all remember when Saddam Hussein went from staunch American ally, bulwark against the rabid Shiite menace, to “the new Hitler,” bent on world domination, the day after he attacked the American elite’s business partners, the repressive, anti-Semitic Kuwaiti royals.
This very interesting — and very crucial — passage in American history is now almost forgotten. But as we careen deeper into conflict with Iran, it is a history well worth remembering. Here is just a bit of it, from a piece I wrote a few years ago. Take special note of one bit player, whose significance I was not aware of at the time: Jay Bybee, a longtime factotum who first helped facilitate Daddy Bush’s covert arming of Saddam Hussein, then later, as we now know, helped L’il Georgie perpetrate the capital crime of torture:
Bush [Senior] also used the global criminal network of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) to secretly funnel cash and weaponry to Saddam – then intervened to quash federal investigations of the scam. What was BCCI? Only “one of the largest criminal enterprises in history,” according to the United States Senate. What did BCCI do? “It engaged in pandemic bribery of officials in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas,” says journalist Christopher Bryon, who first exposed the operation. “It laundered money on a global scale, intimidated witnesses and law officers, engaged in extortion and blackmail. It supplied the financing for illegal arms trafficking and global terrorism. It financed and facilitated income tax evasion, smuggling and prostitution.” Sort of an early version of the Bush Regime, then.
The Italian bank BNL was one of BCCI’s main tentacles. BNL’s Atlanta branch was the primary funnel used to send millions of secret dollars to Saddam for arms purchases, including deadly chemicals and other WMD materials supplied by the Chilean arms dealer Cardoen and various politically-connected operators in the United States like, weapons merchant Matrix Churchill.
As soon as the BNL case broke, Bush moved to throttle the investigation. He appointed lawyers from both Cardoen and Matrix to top Justice Department posts – where they supervised the officials investigating their old companies. The overall probe was directed by Justice Department investigator Robert Mueller. Meanwhile, White House aides applied heavy pressure on other prosecutors to restrict the range of the probe – especially the fact that Bush cabinet officials Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Eagleburger had served as consultants for BNL during their pre-White House days as spear-carriers for yet another secretive international front that profits from war, weapons, and the avid greasing of highly-placed palms: Kissinger Associates. The U.S. Senate later found that the probe had been unaccountably “botched” – witnesses went missing, CIA records got “lost,” all sorts of bad luck. Most of the big BCCI players went unpunished or got off with wrist-slap fines and sanctions.
One of the White House aides who unlawfully intervened in the BNL prosecution was a certain factotum named Jay S. Bybee. In 2004, said factotum was appointed by George W. Bush to a place on the federal appeals court – a lifetime sinecure of perks and power. Mueller, meanwhile wound up as head of the FBI, appointed to the post in by George W. in July 2001. Well done, thou good and faithful servants!
Then came Bush’s “Gulf War,” when he turned on his protégé after Saddam made the foolish move of threatening the Kuwaiti royals – Bush’s long-time business partners, going back to the early 1960s. Saddam’s conflict with Kuwait centered on two main issues: first, his claim that the billions of dollars Kuwait had given Iraq during the war with Iran was simply straightforward aid to the nation that was defending the Sunni Arab world from the aggressive onslaught of the Shiite Persians. The Kuwaitis insisted the money had been a loan, and demanded that Saddam pay off. There was also Saddam’s claim that Kuwait was “slant-drilling” into Iraqi oilfields, siphoning off underground reserves from across the border. These disputes raged for months; a deal to resolve them was brokered by the Arab League, but fell apart at the last minute when Kuwait suddenly rejected the agreement, saying, “We will call in the Americans.”
How worried was Bush about the situation? Let’s look at the historical record. In the two weeks before the invasion of Kuwait, Bush approved the sale of an additional $4.8 million in “dual-use” technology to factories identified by the CIA as linchpins of Hussein’s illicit nuclear and biochemical programs, the Los Angeles Times reports. The day before Saddam sent his tanks across the border, Bush obligingly sold him more than $600 million worth of advanced communications technology. A week later, he was declaring that his long-time ally was “worse than Hitler.”
Yes, the Kuwaitis had called in their marker. Like a warlord of old, Bush used the US military as a private army to help his business partners. After an extensive bombing campaign that openly – even gleefully – mocked international law in its targeting of civilian infrastructure (a tactic repeated in Serbia by Bill Clinton – now regarded as an “adopted son” by Bush), the brief 100-hour ground war slaughtered fleeing Iraqi conscripts by the thousands – while, curiously, allowing Saddam’s crack troops, the aptly-named Republican Guard, to escape unharmed. Later, these troops were used to kill tens of thousands of Shiites who had risen in rebellion against Saddam – at the specific instigation of George Bush, who not only abandoned them to their fate, but specifically allowed Saddam to use his attack helicopters against the rebels, and also ordered US troops to block Shiites from gaining access to arms caches.
Think the Texas Board of Education will put that in their textbooks?
Now Barack Obama and his “Justice” Department are working overtime to protect Bybee — and the rest of the war-and-torture fomenters — from even the slightest mussing of their hair for their facilitation of acts that are clearly war crimes under United States law, the Geneva Conventions and the Principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal. Obama will not acknowledge these atrocities for what they are; he will not investigate these atrocities; he will not prosecute these atrocities. And the reason for this inaction is simple: he approves of these atrocities, and is himself facilitating their continuation and expansion. And why does he do this? Because that is why he came to power: to direct the empire toward its traditional ends of geopolitical domination and oligarchic enrichment. His actual policies give ample demonstration of this fact. (Alexander Cockburn lays out the case here.)
But as we noted, facts are stupid things. No one much wants to hear them; and fewer and fewer people can even recognize them when they float up, in broken bits and jagged pieces, from the rancid swill of our political “discourse.” And even though the Obama Administration is employing the exact same tactics in demonizing Iran that the Bush Administration employed with Iraq — right down to the use of the highly respected, internationally renowned New York Times as a “stovepipe” for warmongering propaganda — no one seems able to grasp what is happening. We still get earnest debates and fretful questions about the “direction” and “intentions” of the current administration’s policies toward Iran.
The intention is this: domination, by any means necessary. This is the bedrock, bipartisan consensus of the American ruling class and its outriders, sycophants, courtiers and toadies. It was spelled out with crystal clarity by two years ago by Admiral William Fallon, the predecessor of General David Petraeus in the very cockpit of the war machine, Central Command. Fallon, as you may recall, enjoyed a brief frisson among progressives for an erroneous report that he had declared there would be no military action against Iran on his watch. And while it was true that he was skeptical about immediate action — putting him in the “moderate” camp described above — he left no doubt about his adherence to the imperial consensus. As I noted at the time:
Fallon himself has long denied the hearsay evidence that he had declared, upon taking over Central Command, that a war on Iran “isn’t going to happen on my watch.” And in fact, the article itself depicts Fallon’s true attitude toward the idea of an attack on Iran right up front, in his own words. After noting Fallon’s concerns about focusing too much on Iran to the exclusion of the other “pots boiling over” in the region, Barnett presses the point and asks: And if it comes to war? Fallon replies with stark, brutal clarity:
“‘Get serious,’ the admiral says. ‘These guys are ants. When the time comes, you crush them.'”
When the time comes, you crush the ants. If anyone asks you to define the “American Way” in the 21st century, just quote them that one sentence.
UPDATE: The eagle eye of Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com caught this story on the wing: the Obama administration is moving a massive amount of weaponry, including hundreds of bunker buster bombs, to Diego Garcia. As Ditz notes:
The Sunday Herald report also cites numerous experts as saying that the lack of publicity for the move, just one of several examples of the Obama Administration adding major amounts of weaponry to the area around Iran, suggests they believe a confrontation is more likely.
Diego Garcia, you may recall, is one of the more sinister jewels in the imperial crown. As we reported here back in 2008:
Britain and America cut a secret deal: land for nukes. London sliced off a sliver of its imperial dominions and gave it to Washington, in exchange for a price reduction on some sleek new nuclear missiles. Together, the two great democracies then drove the inhabitants of the sliver from their homes by force, dumping them into poverty-ridden exile hundreds of miles away. Washington built an imperial outpost on the stolen land, a military base which it used to “project dominance” over strategic regions in Central Asia and the Middle East. Later, the outpost became yet another link in Washington’s chain of “black sites” — secret prisons where captives snatched without charges or due process could be hidden from the world and tortured.
This is the story of the Chagos Archipelago, a chain of small islands in the Indian Ocean whose inhabitants were forced from their land forty years ago to make way for a military base on the island of Diego Garcia. The base, built and staffed largely by the Americans but operated jointly with the British, has been the launching pad for countless air strikes against Iraq (in two wars) and Afghanistan. It has also served as one of the sinister way stations in America’s global gulag. In return for its use of the ethnically cleansed land, Washington graciously knocked off $14 million from the price tag of some Polaris nuclear missiles that Britain craved, in its never-ending struggle to retain some crumbs of its own, now-faded “projection of dominance” on the world stage.
As John Pilger reported after the British high court rejected the Islanders’ appeal to return to their homes:
“To get us out of our homes,” Lizette told me, “they spread rumors we would be bombed, then they turned on our dogs. The American soldiers who had arrived to build the base backed several of their big vehicles against a brick shed, and hundreds of dogs were rounded up and imprisoned there, and they gassed them through a tube from the trucks’ exhaust. You could hear them crying. Then they burned them on a pyre, many still alive.”
Lizette and her family were finally forced on to a rusting freighter and made to lie on a cargo of bird fertilizer during a voyage, through stormy seas, to the slums of Port Louis, Mauritius. Within months, she had lost Jollice, aged eight, and Regis, aged ten months. “They died of sadness,” she said. “The eight-year-old had seen the horror of what had happened to the dogs. The doctor said he could not treat sadness.”
NOTE: No one has covered America’s slide toward war with Iran — and indeed, the accelerating moral rot of militarist empire in general — with more depth and insight than Arthur Silber. He is in extremely low water right now, suffering from severe health problems. He has been able to post only a small handful of articles since the first of December — and nothing at all for several weeks now. Yet his blog is his sole means of support. I don’t know what his precise situation is at the moment, but it is certain to be dire. If you are able to contribute anything to help him out, I would urge you to go to his site and drop something in the donation jar.