Saturday, August 25, 2007

Recommended reading: Tony Karon's "Asking the wrong questions on Iran"

I confess, I’m quite anxious about whether or not Bush will attack Iran. I’m querying people on the streets in my hometown, asking them what they think, the subject of my previous post.

I’m reading everything on the subject that I can find. One of the best articles I’ve seen so far was posted on August 20 by Tony Karon at his blog, Rootless Cosmopolitan. He’s a senior editor at and has been covering the Middle East, the “war on terror” and international issues ranging from China’s emergence to the Balkans. He blogs on his own time and as a concerned citizen, not on behalf of TIME.

In "Asking the wrong questions on Iran," Karon opens with, “Imagine, for a moment, that U.S. troops invading Iraq had, as they neared Baghdad, been fired on by an artillery unit using shells filled VX nerve gas — an attack that would have lasted minutes before a U.S. aircrew had taken out the battery, and may have brought a horrible death to a handful of American soldiers. Imagine, further, that the conquering troops had later discovered two warehouses full of VX and mustard gas shells. And later, that inspectors in a science lab had discovered a refrigerator full of Botulinum toxin or even anthrax.

“The Administration and its allies in the punditocracy would have 'proved' their case for war, and the media would have hailed President Bush as the kind of Churchillian visionary that he imagines himself to be. And goodness knows what new adventures the Pentagon ideologues would have immediately begun planning.

“Now, ask yourself, had the above scenario unfolded and the 'case for war' (on the terms accepted by the media and the Democrats) been proven, would Iraq look any different today? Would it be any less of a bloodbath; any less of a quagmire for U.S. troops; any less of a geopolitical disaster; any less of a drain on U.S. blood and treasure? Would the U.S. mainland or U.S. interests and allies worldwide be any safer today? In short, would the Iraq invasion seem any less of a catastrophic strategic blunder had the U.S. discovered some caches of unconventional weapons in Iraq?

“The answer to all of those questions is obviously no.”

Karon raises the issue of “...the media’s role in preparing the American public for another disastrous war of choice. The ‘necessity’ in the American public mind to go to war in Iraq was established through the mass media — a failure for which there has been precious little accounting….

“The very idea that there are certain categories of weapons that draw down a red mist over rational discussion of geopolitical options is an exceedingly dangerous one — that should be one of the key lessons drawn from Iraq. And that’s exactly what’s being cooked up over Iran, too. "

"For the record", Karon lists four points:

· First, there is no evidence that Iran is actually building a nuclear weapon; merely that it is building a civilian nuclear energy program with all elements of the fuel cycle permissible under the NPT that would, in fact, put nuclear weapons easily within reach should they opt to build them.

· Second, even if Iran did possess nuclear weapons, the idea that it would use them to initiate a conflict in which Tehran would certainly be destroyed is based on tabloid-style alarmism about the nature of the regime in Tehran — in fact, Iran’s Islamic Republic has long proved to be guided more by unsentimental realpolitik than by revolutionary fervor in the pursuit of its national interests and regional influence.

· Third, Iran is not 'interfering' in Afghanistan and Iraq any more than the U.S. is; it has close ties with the dominant Shiite and Kurdish parties that represent three quarters of Iraqis, for whom its involvement in Iraq is welcome. Thus the recent rebuke to Bush by both Karzai and Maliki on the question of Iran’s role in their countries. Even the Administration’s claims that Iran is targeting U.S. troops in Iraq are largely unproven: In a remarkably shallow treatment of complaints about the New York Times coverage of the issue, its public editor concedes simply that the Times should have told readers of its previous coverage to provide 'context' — there is no serious questioning of the contention that because Iran has been known to supply the know-how to build 'Explosively Formed Projectiles' (EFPs), any time an EFP is used in an attack on U.S. soldiers in Iraq, the perpetrators are an Iranian proxy. This is worth dwelling on, because it’s typical of the ignorance on various issues — the extent of President Ahmedinajad’s authority in Iran, for example — propagated by the Times. A simple technical exposition of what an EFP is reveals that the technology is easily copied by anyone with know-how and access to very basic munitions. It’s not an actual weapon; it’s a method of building an improvised explosive device to pierce armor. The idea that the use of EFPs in Iraq is automatically a fingerprint of Iran is ridiculous. Someone ought to tell the Times. And by the way, even if Iranian proxies were attacking U.S. forces in Iraq, that wouldn’t signal intent to undermine the Iraqi government; it would simply be an escalation of the secret war between Washington and Tehran. And that’s a war that this President, his deepest psychological scars laid bare by his failure in Iraq — a wound that the psychotic Dick Cheney will press and press — may be ready to escalate by launching an attack on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Indeed, it is not Iranian 'interference' that Iraq and Afghanistan fear; it is being caught in the crossfire between the U.S. and Iran.

· 1938? Don’t make me laugh. Nazi Germany was the most powerful military nation on earth, and in 1938 it was poised to invade its neighbors. To make the same claim about Iran is just plain ignorant. )

Pointing a finger at the media, Karon states, "...the U.S. media corps that facilitated the Iraq catastrophe ought to be asking the question, can the Bush Administration do any worse than it has already done in plunging the Middle East into bloody chaos and in destroying countless American and Arab lives — and doing irreversible damage to U.S. interests across the planet. The answer, of course, is yes, but only if the U.S. media once again enables it."

There's so much more in this article, I hope you're read the whole thing.

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