It’s hard to say which is more disturbing in Patrick Cockburn’s recent analysis of America’s warmongering toward Iran: his portrait of wily Jews manipulating and “bamboozling” the American power elite into acting against their own interests and good intentions; or the ‘Amos and Andy’ echoes in the image of a Negro President too dumb to know he’s being played by wicked Hebrews. In any case, it is an astounding — and dismaying — performance from a writer who has long been one of the very best in delineating the operations of empire in the Middle East.
As so often happens, Arthur Silber has already been on the case. In his latest post, Silber notes that most of Cockburn’s analysis is right on target. Cockburn writes that the methods being used “by the US, Israel and West European leaders” to whip up war fever against Iran are “deeply dishonest,” and “similar to the drumbeat of propaganda and disinformation about Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction.” Cockburn also says that sanctions, such as the ones recently imposed by the European Union on Iranian oil sales, “are likely to intensify the crisis, impoverish ordinary Iranians and psychologically prepare the ground for war because of the demonization of Iran.” All of this is demonstrably and undeniably true. But then he goes on. Silber sets the scene (and adds the emphases):
But note what else Cockburn says, which is most definitely not similar to anything I’ve written. Writing about U.S. neoconservatives, the Likud Party and the Israel lobby in Washington, Cockburn states:
These are very much the same people who targeted Iraq in the 1990s. They have been able to force the White House to adopt their program and it is now, in turn, being implemented by a European Union that naively sees sanctions as an alternative to military conflict. ….
It is this latter policy [of toppling the Iranian government] that has triumphed. Israel, its congressional allies and the neoconservatives have successfully bamboozled the Obama administration into a set of policies that make sense only if the aim is overthrow of the regime in Tehran….
It is difficult not to admire the skill with which Netanyahu has maneuvered the White House and European leaders into the very confrontation with Iran they wanted to avoid.
Let me see if I understand this correctly. Obama was strapped down, blindfolded, deprived of all food and water for weeks on end, and tortured in numerous ways. Perhaps Netanyahu screamed at him nonstop for 10 or 12 days. (It would unquestionably work on me.) And then, on top of that, Obama was tricked. Tricked!!! How unbelievably dastardly.
Thus was Obama — who happens to be the goddamned President of the United States, who happens to be the goddamned Commander-in-Chief of all the U.S. military forces — “forced,” “bamboozled” and “maneuvered” into taking actions he doesn’t begin to understand and doesn’t actually intend.
Silber goes on to lay out the overwhelming evidence, from Obama’s own statements and actions, disproving Cockburn’s ludicrous contention — evidence which, as Silber says, “supports only one conclusion: what Obama is doing comports fully and precisely with what he himself believes.”
Exactly. Unlike Cockburn — and the innumerable progressive apologists for Obama — I have the fullest respect for the president’s intellect and his powers of perception. I think it is deeply insulting to him to say that he is not aware of the true impact of his policies, both in foreign and domestic affairs. As Cockburn himself states, Obama is pursuing “a set of policies that make sense only if the aim is overthrow of the regime in Tehran.” Yes. That is indeed the case. The glaringly obvious aim of American policy toward Iran is regime change. But Cockburn is asserting that Barack Obama literally has no sense. He is too stupid to see what Cockburn plainly (and rightly) sees.
Again, what’s being said here? That Jews have some kind of occult power to control the minds of America’s power elite and force them to act against their will? One really can’t credit a writer like Cockburn with such a crude conception — but something very like it is implicit in his wording. And of course, this idea is prevalent in many circles, on both the right and the left, who continually posit “wag the dog” scenarios about decent Americans being led astray by mesmerizing Israeli leaders and Homeland neo-cons. As I wrote a few years ago, when the Iraq War was plunging deeper and deeper into horror:
To think that all of this has happened because a small band of extremist ideologues – the neocons – somehow “hijacked” U.S. foreign policy to push their radical dreams of “liberating” the Middle East by force and destroying Israel’s enemies is absurd. The Bushist power factions were already determined on an aggressive foreign policy; they used the neocons and their bag of tricks – their inflated rhetoric, their conspiratorial zeal, their murky Middle East contacts, their ideology of brute force in the name of “higher” causes – as tools (and PR cover) to help bring about a long-planned war that had nothing to do with democracy or security or any coherent ideology whatsoever beyond the remorseless pursuit of wealth and power, the blind urge to be top dog.
The neocons were happy to be used, of course … [but] Shakespeare anticipated this tawdry crew long ago, in Hamlet: “Such officers do the king best service in the end: he keeps them, like an ape, in the corner of his jaw, first mouthed, to be last swallowed. When he needs what you have gleaned, it is but squeezing you, and sponge, you shall be dry again.” Whatever their baleful influence, these servile ministers were not the drivers of Bush’s war chariot to Babylon. The reins – and the whip – have always been in the hands of the blood-and-iron factions and their feckless front man, the Commander-in-Chief.
And again a bit later on the same theme:
For what’s the underlying implication of the “neo-cons über alles” meme? … It’s that no U.S. administration would ever undertake the kind of rapacious policies we’ve seen in the last five years – unless they’d been tricked into it by wily Zionists and their ideological outriders. It is, in short, our old friend “American exceptionalism,” decked out in dissident drag. ….
It is the American elite – pursuing, as always, the enhancement of its own power and privilege, heedless of the consent of the governed or the genuine interests of the American people (or the Palestinian people or the Israeli people or the Lebanese people or the Iraqi people) – that bedevils us. The emergence of the cretinous neo-conservative cult is just a symptom of a deeper moral corruption coursing through the dominant institutions and structures of American society. The body politic is rotting from the head.
But there’s something else going on here, and Silber, as usual, goes deeper to get at it:
What interests me about this kind of mental contortion — and where I think its significance lies — is what it achieves, and what unspoken premises it reveals. Among other things, it accomplishes a distancing from evil. If we acknowledge that Obama knows exactly what he’s doing and that he intends the likely outcome of the events he sets in motion, we are compelled to conclude that he is engaged in a plan which can only be described as deeply, unforgivably evil. The effects of regime change, most likely accompanied by air strikes or military action(s) of some other kind, will include the widespread deaths of innocent human beings and vast destruction.”
Again, you cannot pretend that the American elite do not know this. They know it very well. They are discussing it openly every day. As Jim Lobe tells us, yet another bipartisan gaggle of the great and good has just released yet another report stoking war fever against Iran.
The “Bipartisan Policy Center” is chaired by former Democratic Senator Chuck Robb and ex-Air Force general Charles Wald and included “retired flag officers, several former congressmen from both parties” and other wise elders plugged into the power grid. Lobe also notes that group’s “staff director was Michael Makovsky, who worked as a consultant to the controversial Pentagon office set up in 2002 to find evidence of operational ties between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein as a justification for the invasion the following year.”
Lobe lays out what these heavyweights are calling for. In the inevitable event that sanctions fail to force Iran to give up its entirely legal nuclear energy program (which is policed by the most intensive international inspection regimen in history):
Washington should launch an “effective surgical strike against Iran’s nuclear program” involving aerial attacks and the deployment of U.S. Special Forces units over a period of weeks, according to the task force. …
In addition to hitting suspected nuclear sites, according to the report, an initial U.S. military attack should target Iranian communications systems and air-defense and missile sites, facilities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Iranian and IRGC navies, sites related to Iran’s missile and biological or chemical weapons programs, munitions storage facilities, and airfields, aircraft, and helicopters on the ground or in the air.
If, as a result of retaliation by Tehran or its allies in the region, it was deemed necessary to escalate the conflict, Washington should expand its target list to include Iranian tanks and artillery units, power-generation plants and electrical grids, transportation infrastructure, and manufacturing plants and refineries.
While “U.S. plans would not include targeting of civilians,” according to the task force, Washington should also prepare to provide humanitarian relief in Iran “to counter any crisis that could result from kinetic action.”
No, they are not “targeting civilians” — just power plant and electric company employees, bus drivers, train drivers, factory workers, highway crews, oil riggers, people who work for mobile phone companies, television and radio stations and all other media which might be used by the regime for “communications.” And all the civilians working in government offices and military facilities, and all the civilians who might live near factories, train stations, power plants, oil fields, government offices, military facilities, and all the civilians who ride trains, buses, drive on the roads and highways and otherwise avail themselves of “transportation infrastructure.”
Despite their tender forbearance in declining to target civilians (except for the millions of innocent civilians described above), even our bipartisan poobahs recognize that “kinetic action” will induce a need for “humanitarian relief.” However, lest anyone think our poobahs are going soft, they make clear that this “relief” is intended solely for PR purposes:
“The United States would lose international support for military action against Iran — or for future action against other states — if it neglected to address the humanitarian consequences of a military strike,” according to the report.
To repeat: this kind of talk is going on across the networks of power in Washington, on every level: formal, informal, official, semi-official, openly and secretly. Indeed, as Lobe notes, this week the Obama administration has been racketing up the warmongering to new heights:
On Sunday, for example, Pentagon chief Leon Panetta vowed to take “whatever steps are necessary” to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, while on Tuesday, the director of national intelligence, Gen. James Clapper, testified that Tehran may be preparing to conduct terrorist attacks in the U.S. in the event of a war.
The impetus behind these efforts is the same: to force regime change in Iran, either by collapsing the regime now in place or else breaking it into complete acquiescence with the armed domination of world affairs that is Washington’s openly stated agenda. As Defense Secretary Leon Panetta put it, in introducing Obama’s “Defense Strategic Review” last month: “We must maintain the world’s finest military, one that supports and sustains the unique global leadership role of the United States in today’s world.”
This includes maintaining the American military’s “ability to project power in areas in which our access and freedom to operate are challenged,” the Obama review says. In other words, no one, anywhere, has any right to deny the American war machine from doing whatever it wants in their territory. Any “potential adversary,” as the Review puts it, must be deterred by the “power projection” of America’s overwhelming military might.
Obama himself presented this reaffirmation of the doctrine of armed domination in a special appearance at the Pentagon. And as Silber points out (and carefully documents), Obama’s open and enthusiastic embrace of this doctrine goes back many years. It is myopic — to a mind-boggling degree — to assert that he is being “bamboozled” into carrying out his own clearly stated strategy: “projecting power” against a “potential adversary” in a region that is crucial for “sustaining America’s unique global leadership role” in today’s oil-driven world.
This is precisely what he came to power to do. It is precisely what he said he intended to do. It is precisely what he has been doing for years, all over the world. He is serving the interests, promoting the agenda and embodying the values of the American elite, whose lust for empire long pre-dates the founding of the state of Israel. He knows what he is doing; the militarist courtiers in Washington know it; the Israelis know it; and so do the Iranians.
The only people being “bamboozled” about the direction and intentions of American policy toward Iran are the “mental contortionists” who, for whatever reasons, are trying desperately not to see the stark reality in front of their eyes.