Here’s something you don’t see every day: someone talking sense about Iran. But when that someone is Scott Ritter, we shouldn’t be surprised. He’s talked sense for years, and he knows what he’s talking about (another rarity in our gasbaggy age). So take a gander at this excellent interview with Ritter by Detroit’s Metro Times. (Via, as so often, the indispensable Buzzflash.) Here are some excerpts:
Ritter: The ideologues who are in there believe the United States in the post-Cold War environment needed to fill the gap created by the demise of the Soviet Union so that no nation or group of nations would ever again confront us as equals. And in order to do this, they basically divided the world into spheres of strategic interest and said we will impose our will. And the Middle East is one such area. There’s a whole host of reasons to do this.
It’s not just supporting Israel. It’s not just taking down Saddam. It’s about geopolitics. It’s about looking down the road toward China and India, the world’s two largest developing economies, especially the Chinese, and the absolute fear that this resurgent Chinese economy brings in the hearts of American industrialists and the need to dictate the pace of Chinese economic development by controlling their access to energy. And controlling central Asian and Middle East energy areas is key in the strategic thinking of the Bush administration.
So, there’s a lot of complexity at play here. But you say why do they want to do this? As Condoleezza Rice continuously says before the U.S. Congress: It’s about regional transformation, inclusive of regime change. It turns the Middle East into a sphere of interest that we have tremendous control over. That’s what’s behind all this…
MT: But it is now clearer than ever that our invasion of Iraq has been a disaster. How do you explain the lack of opposition [to a move against Iran]?
Ritter: It’s difficult to explain. First of all you have to note, from the public side, that very few Americans actually function as citizens anymore. What I mean by that are people who invest themselves in this country, people who care, who give a damn. Americans are primarily consumers today, and so long as they continue to wrap themselves in the cocoon of comfort, and the system keeps them walking down a road to the perceived path of prosperity, they don’t want to rock the boat. If it doesn’t have a direct impact on their day-to-day existence, they simply don’t care.
There’s a minority of people who do, but the majority of Americans don’t. And if the people don’t care — and remember, the people are the constituents — if the constituents don’t care, then those they elect to higher office won’t feel the pressure to change.
The Democrats, one would hope, would live up to their rhetoric, that is, challenging the Bush administration’s imperial aspirations. Once it became clear Iraq was an unmitigated disaster, one would have thought that when the Democrats took control of Congress they would have sought to reimpose a system of checks and balances, as the Constitution mandates. But instead the Democrats have put their focus solely on recapturing the White House, and, in doing so, will not do anything that creates a political window of opportunity for their Republican opponents.
The Democrats don’t want to be explaining to an apathetic constituency, an ignorant constituency whose ignorance is prone to be exploited because it produces fear, fear of the unknown, and the global war on terror is the ultimate fear button. The Democrats, rather than challenging the Bush administration’s position on the global war on terror, challenging the notion of these imminent threats, continues to play them up because that is the safest route toward the White House. At least that is their perception.
The last thing they are gong to do is pass a piece of legislation that opens the door for the Republicans to say, “Look how weak these guys are on terror. They’re actually defending the Iranians. They’re defending this Ahmadinejad guy. They’re defending the Holocaust denier. They’re defending the guy who wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.” The Democrats don’t want to go up against that. They don’t have the courage of conviction to enter into that debate and stare at whoever makes that statement and say they’re a bald-faced liar. They’re not going to go that route…
MT: You’ve been to Iran before, haven’t you?
Ritter: Yes. And having been to Iran, I can tell you that it is the last nation in the world we should be saying these are people we have to fight. When you visit Iran and you see the Iranian people and you get the chance to talk to them, you realize that these are peaceful people. These are highly educated people. They are more like us than we can possibly imagine. They are very Western in their approach, although they reject the term Western because they say think those in the West are Neanderthals compared to the Persian culture. But they are very modern in their approach. They are a very modern people.
I always say the best way to stop a war with Iran would be to issue every American a passport and roundtrip ticket and money for a two-week stay and let them go there and when they came back they’d say there’s no way we should bomb this place. Once you’ve been to Iran you realize just how utterly useless the concept of militaristic confrontation is.