Iran is Iraq Redux

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

What would you say is the biggest scandal in the history of American foreign policy? Certainly the December 7th, 1941 debacle at Pearl Harbor would be right up there. The scandal of Pearl Harbor is the long-standing, official pretense that the Japanese attack came as a surprise to Roosevelt and to his inner circle and that it was not something which they had deliberately schemed to bring about through provocation, embargoes, warmongering and ultimata.

One does not need to rely upon the decrypted Japanese diplomatic cables in the run-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor to make the case against Roosevelt. The Purple Code messages which Washington intercepted in real time are relevant, enlightening and important. They do provide confirmation of what Roosevelt was up to. But all that is really required is to examine Roosevelt's sub rosa foreign policy in the months and years prior to the attack. It was his incendiary, mischief-making policy which made war inevitable and provoked the attack.

More recently, and equally brazen in terms of White House misfeasance, would be the case of Iraq's nonexistent WMDs. You will recall that the bogus threat of Iraq's WMD was proffered as the all-purpose justification for an unprovoked, preemptive war in early 2003 under the U.S. regime of the Richelieu-like Regent, Dick Cheney, and his band of "Neoconservative" operators and their frontman, George Bush II. It is a sorry chapter of American history which we would all like to forget, but can't. The hangover is still with us.

We were subjected to a full-court press of propaganda for months in the aftermath of 9/11 and after the successful overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Three days prior to the invasion of Iraq, Cheney publicly proclaimed, "We believe that he [Saddam Hussein] has in fact reconstituted nuclear weapons." Such preposterous blarney could not be an accident or a mistake. Such a pronouncement had to be willful deception by someone who felt entitled to do as he pleased and was used to getting his way. The alternative explanation is that Cheney was out of his mind.

And what about 9/11 itself, the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington? Surely 9/11 must fall under the category of a foreign policy failure. The attacks constituted a monstrous yet predictable blowback from American initiatives in the Middle East, especially those relating to the conflict over Palestine. This obvious circumstance of cause-and-effect was not acknowledged by the White House at the time. And it was all but ignored by the nonpartisan  9/11 Commission, whose work, in any event, was vigorously stonewalled by the Cheney White House from day one.

Instead, spokesperson G.W. Bush proclaimed that the Arab terrorists struck America from out of the blue because they hated our democracy. That was all there was to it. The mainstream media went along. This amounted to a deliberate,  quasi-official cover-up of the crime, as part of the larger effort to keep the American people ignorant about just what their government had been doing in their name and what the adverse consequences flowing therefrom had been and might be in the future.

But the Enterprise of Iran--the ongoing Washington effort to demonize Iran due to its alleged nuclear weapons program--might just top all the above. The threat is looking more and more like a hoax. My view is that the Obama White House knows it is a hoax, but can’t back down. The pretense that Iran is building an atomic bomb to threaten the Middle East, Israel, and the world has been American foreign policy balderdash under three consecutive occupants of the White House: Bill Clinton, Bush II, and Barack Obama. It is no accident.

The "surprise" attack at Pearl Harbor was made possible by the megalomania of one desperate, rogue President acting in secret with a handful of enablers. "Operation Iraqi Freedom" was launched by the Cheney-Bush duo, a Neoconized co-Presidency, whose gross mismanagement in both domestic and foreign affairs is now in the record books for the ages. The interminable campaign to threaten, degrade and destabilize Iran because of its "nuclear ambitions" could be regarded as even more extravagant, in terms of scope and duration, than either Pearl Harbor or the invasion of Iraq.  

As you may have guessed, the reason for revisiting this particular subject is the recent Seymour Hersh article--"Iran and the Bomb" in the June 6th, 2011 issue of the New Yorker. Item: "The two most recent National Intelligence Estimates (N.I.E.s) on Iranian nuclear progress have stated that there is no conclusive evidence that Iran has made any effort to build the bomb since 2003." Item: "International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) inspectors...have been unable to find any evidence suggesting that enriched uranium has been diverted to an illicit weapons program." Say, what!?

Notwithstanding that there is no indication, much less evidence, that Tehran is working to build an atomic bomb, the Obama Administration, like the Cheney Regency before it, nevertheless talks and acts as if such a nuclear weapons program were a foregone conclusion. Hersh's article is carefully researched, even-handed, and he uses inside sources. It was immediately attacked by the White House. For the average citizen, Sy Hersh has single-handedly blown Obama's cover sky high. And it is not just Obama's cover. Capitol Hill, the National Security Council, and the entire Washington foreign policy establishment are complicit in this endeavor to paint a false picture.  

If Barack Obama is pursuing a proactive, aggressive policy toward Iran, which policy is predicated upon a bogus premise, then that makes Obama just as big a fabricator as FDR, Dick Cheney and G.W. Bush. In effect, the 2011 NIE informed Obama that he is in error. Call me old fashioned, but I do not believe that any American President has the right to lie to the American people in matters of war and peace, and get away with it, even if he has won a Nobel Peace Prize. According to Professor John Mearsheimer in his latest book Why Leaders Lie, Presidential mendacity is almost taken for granted, but that is no excuse. There is a rejoinder for such conduct. It is called impeachment.

If this sounds like déjà vu all over again, you are right. The 2011 NIE is an update of the 2007 NIE. The verdict of the spooks is unchanged, this despite Iran being blanketed with surveillance from the air and on the ground in the interim. No Iranian nukes. Repeat: Iran is not a nuclear threat. Inexplicably, an unclassified summary version of the startling 2007 NIE was made public by the Bush White House. It probably checkmated Cheney's march to war. Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Scooter Libby, managed to have the report bottled up for a year. The 2011 NIE remains under lock & key by the Obama White House. It was shared in February only with the Senate and House intelligence committees. What are they hiding?!

The 2007 NIE caused an uproar. I wrote a longish article about the controversy in December 2007 for Taki’s Magazine. Hersh notes in the current New Yorker article that former Republican Congressman Peter Hoekstra, who was the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee at the time, called the 2007 NIE "a piece of trash". The attitude of such "neoconservative" cranks like Hoekstra was understandable. Blowhard extraordinaire Rush Limbaugh felt the same way. How dare the intelligence community derail the Cheney-Bush plan to target Iran!

Hersh further notes that Senator Joe Lieberman, Bibi Netanyahoo's point man in the Senate, has chosen simply to ignore the 2011 NIE. According to Agence France-Press, Lieberman blithely proclaimed in March 2011, "I can't say much in detail, but it's pretty clear that they [the Iranians] are continuing to work seriously on a nuclear weapons program." Liar, liar, pants on fire.

Also in March, it will be recorded that our Peace Prize President signed an executive order, extending one signed by Bill Clinton in 1995, with respect to the supposed threat from Iran. Most revealing. From the March 15th, 2011 White House statement: "Because the actions and policies of the government of Iran continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States, the national emergency declared on March 15, 1995, must continue in effect beyond March 15, 2011."

No, this is not a joke. Read the full text here, headlined in caps as follows: NOTICE ON THE CONTINUATION OF THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY WITH RESPECT TO IRAN. [sic.] This demonstrates a seamless, grandstanding and grandiose foreign policy from Clinton through Bush II to Obama. It is all of a piece, from the same playbook.

Just what kind of "extraordinary threat" does Iran pose to the United States? The short answer is, none. We are witnessing a rerun of the Iraq WMD canard on a grander scale. Dick Cheney proclaimed in August 2002, "we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons...we've gotten this from first-hand testimony from defectors."

Who do you trust? Unscrupulous elected officials who will say and do just about anything to further their career opportunities and a private agenda? Or professional intelligence officers whose job is to uncover the facts, free from self-serving propaganda? My suggestion is to go with the unelected spooks on this one. Moreover, the analysts from the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies who write the NIE are normally not dependent upon campaign contributions and a good press.

This entire brouhaha is essentially not about Iran's nuclear weapons at all, anymore than the invasion of Iraq was about Iraq's WMDs. Iran's "nuclear ambitions" is a code word as well as a red herring. This affair is all about Washington's efforts to justify economic sanctions on Iran, as was the case with Iraq.

It dawns on Sy Hersh toward the end of his New Yorker article, that "...the current sanctions regime is aimed at forcing Iran to stop a nuclear-weapons program that does not exist." That's ironic, but not entirely precise. The "sanctions regime" is an end in itself, mandated by Tel Aviv and Washington; the nuclear weapons bogeyman is the public means to achieve that private end.

Simultaneously, the masterminds in Washington have succeeded over the years in destabilizing Pakistan, destroying Iraq as a nation state, turning Afghanistan into a quagmire, keeping the Palestinians locked up in their refugee camps and bantustans for decades, and putting Saudi Arabia, the linchpin for the world's oil supplies, on the spot, among other non-stop follies. The latest madness is bombing downtown Tripoli.

Do we really need more upheaval, conflict and destabilization in that part of the world at this point in time? To what purpose? Cui bono? How about a new tack? Leave Iran and everybody else alone. Set up an honest dialogue. Tell the truth. Don't go looking for trouble..