Even as progressives were savoring Barack Obama’s "masterful" – indeed, "brain-searing" – performance at the House Republicans’ retreat last Friday, their dazzling champion was busy applying himself with renewed and reckless vigor to that most un-progressive of occupations: saber-rattling around the world. The last few days have certainly seen a remarkable display of bellicosity by the Obama Administration, putting almost every tool in the militarist kit to use: nukes, ships, missiles, money, proxies and war-profiteering. With just a few flicks of the imperial wrist, Obama sent waves of destabilization through some of the most volatile regions on earth.
There was the sale of $6.4 billion in military hardware to Taiwan: a bumper crop of boodle for America’s war-profiteering community, but a hard slap to the Chinese – who have responded to this stirring of hair-trigger cross-strait tensions by "canceling talks between senior Chinese and US officials on strategic security, arms control and nuclear non-proliferation," as the Guardian notes. Well, if there’s one thing the world needs less of today, it’s more cooperation on strategic security, arms control and nuclear non-proliferation, right?
Especially the latter. In fact, so unconcerned is Obama with nuclear proliferation that he is asking Congress to increase funding for the nation’s nuclear arsenal by $5 billion, as McClatchy reports (via Antiwar.com). Much of this extra money will be spent on new facilities that will enable the government to build new nuclear warheads whenever it chooses. "There is no question that some counties, friends and foes, will see the increased spending as a sign of U.S. hypocrisy," said arms control expert Joseph Cirincione, in an obvious bid for the "Understatement of the Year" award. But this kind of higher hypocrisy is meat and drink for the American establishment, whose guiding motto for the earth’s lesser breeds has ever been: "Do as we say, not as we do."
Obama was also busy slaughtering a few more villagers in Pakistan with his ever-accelerating "drone" attacks. The latest attack was Saturday night, which killed nine people in North Waziristan. This capped a month in which American drones killed "123 innocent Pakistanis," as The News of Pakistan reports. Ten of the 12 raids "went wrong and failed to hit their targets," but the robots did manage to assassinate three men alleged, by someone somewhere on some kind of evidence, or not, to be "al-Qaeda leaders."
The News also notes that the increase in drone killings by the United States (123 civilians killed this January in contrast to "only" 36 killings in January 2009) seems due in large part to "revenge attacks" by the U.S. in retaliation for the December 30 suicide bombing that killed seven CIA agents at a border base in Afghanistan. Everyone knew the American security organs would be stern in their reprisals for the attack; after all, the U.S. killed a million Iraqis as "payback for 9/11," to quote the rationale for war most often quoted by American soldiers as they stormed into Iraq in 2003. So at this point, 123 for seven seems almost a model of restraint. But it’s early days yet; the Reprisal-by-Robot campaign will no doubt harvest much more blood fruit in the months to come.
But of course, the centerpiece of Obama’s wild warmonger weekend was the leaked-on-purpose news of the deployment of a bristling "missile shield" to four countries in the Middle East, along with the dispatch of even more warships to join those already poised with minatory intent around the Persian Gulf. The ostensible aim of this sudden outpouring of ordnance to Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait is to "protect" these nations from an attack by Iran – a nation which has not attacked anyone for centuries, but which is itself under relentless, open, repeated threat of attack from, er, the United States, and one of its regional proxies, Israel.
Word of the new deployment came just hours after the U.S. Senate voted to impose even more draconian sanctions on Iran: crippling measures that will only make life much more wretched and dangerous for millions of ordinary Iranians. The Senate measures are aimed chiefly at strangling Iran’s supplies of gasoline — a truly noble act of "humanitarian intervention," which, if successful, would see deliveries of essential food and supplies grind to a halt, fire trucks and ambulances parked, schools closed, mass business failures across the country, with the subsequent loss of jobs, homes, health and opportunity. The Iranian ruling elite will of course be spared any of these discomforts – just as our own ruling elite forever escapes even the slightest unpleasant consequence of its actions.
Some observers seem to regard the Senate move as some kind of rebuke to Obama, "taking Iran policy out of his hands" by force; but the deployment of the new war machinery to the region – which was accompanied by sales of military upgrades to the savagely oppressive religious extremists in Saudi Arabia – shows that the American political elite is, as usual, marching in lockstep when it comes to "projecting dominance" and threatening grave punishments (up and including "obliteration," because, as we all know, "all elements of national power" are always "on the table" at all times) for any rogue nations that fail to follow the Potomac line. (And a comparison between the repressive regime in Iran and the far more repressive regime in Saudi Arabia shows us clearly that it the line-following, not lack of freedom, that determines whether a nation is "rogue" or not.)
But we should not see this weekend’s machinations in the Persian Gulf as moving the United States closer to war with Iran. The United States has been at war with Iran for a long time now, running and/or assisting armed terrorist groups inside the country to kill scores of people year after year, as we noted here last year. No, what we are seeing now is just another "surge" in the barely covert war with Iran – a war that in some ways has been going on for decades, and flares up any time a government in Tehran fails to show due obeisance. As I noted in that earlier piece, which came out just before the disputed Iranian election, and just after yet another terrorist attack in Iran:
Because the ultimate aim — the only aim, really — of the militarists’ policy toward Iran is regime change. They don’t care about "national security" or the "threat" from Iran’s non-existent nuclear arsenal; they know that there is no threat whatsoever that Iran will attack Israel — or even more ludicrously, the United States — even if Tehran did have nukes. They don’t care about the suffering of the Iranian people under a draconian, repressive and corrupt regime. They are not worried about Iran’s "sponsorship of terrorism," for, as we’ve seen, the militarists thrive on — when they are not actively fomenting — the fear and anguish caused by terrorism. This fear is the grease that drives the ever-expanding war machine and ‘justifies’ its own ever-increasing draconian powers and corruption.
No, in the end, the sole aim of the militarist policy is to overthrow Iran’s current political system and replace it with a regime that will bow to the hegemony of the United States and its regional deputy, Israel. There is no essential difference in aim or method between today’s policy and that of 1953. (Except that the regional deputy in those days was Britain, not Israel.) What they want is compliance, access to resources and another strategic stronghold in the heart of the oil lands — precisely what they wanted, and got, with the installation of the Shah and his corruption-ridden police state more than a half-century ago.
They play the long game, our militarists. For example, they agitated openly — and plotted covertly — for the invasion of Iraq for almost 10 years before they finally got their way. They have worked for 30 years now to restore a client regime in Iran, and today, with the relentless bipartisan demonizing of the Iranians — and the "mushroom cloud" fearmongering over a non-existent nuclear weapons program — they are as close as they have ever been to their goal.
The obscene folly of all this is so self-evident that it seems not only redundant but downright insulting to point it out. Yet in a land so marinated in its own myths, a nation whose imperial sense of entitlement runs so deep, embedded in so many unconscious, unquestioned assumptions that even its "progressives" cannot see the howling evil being done by their leaders (as long as those leaders make even the slightest "progressive" noises now and then), this redundant, insulting task remains an unfortunate imperative.
And no one has laid out the case against attacking Iran with more depth, power, eloquence and persistence than Arthur Silber. What’s more, Silber has offered practical steps that even those obsessed with retaining their "serious" and "politically savvy" cred could employ. Of course, most of these steps were first offered back in the bad old Bush days, when "progressives" were castigating the government for its reckless warmongering toward Iran — not to mention its drone attacks on civilians in Pakistan, its plans for "modernizing" the nuclear arsenal, and its war-profiteering sale of death machinery in every volatile region on earth. Back then, you could still hope — or pretend — that the dissent against Bush’s rapacious and criminal policies was more principled than partisan, and thus that reasonable suggestions for lowering the war fever might gain some traction.
These days, alas, we find that to many progressives, actions that were considered rank crimes and national shames under Bush have been magically converted into "tough choices," "necessary evils," "practical politics" or even far-seeing "11-dimensional chess" when they are committed by Obama. So the anti-war row is now a lot harder, and longer, to hoe.
But some hardy cultivators, like Silber, are still out there hacking away at the flinty soil, planting seeds of truth in the almost-but-quite-yet-impossible hope that they will bear good fruit some day, in some way, somewhere down the line. And so I urge readers to set themselves to school on some or all of these remarkable Iran-related articles by Silber, while following up on the wealth of links each one provides: here, here, here, here, here, and here.
(*And while you’re there, consider contributing something to the tip jar, if you can. Silber continues to suffer from catastrophic health problems, and the website is his only means of support.*)