bogosities of the press: Israel and Iran

LI went to the memorial service for our friend Bob yesterday. As in life, so in death – Bob was always a catalyst for things to happen to yours truly, and the service was no different. One of my best buds of yore, from whom I’d parted in considerable anger over issues that have long been swallowed up by the steady creep of geological time was there, and we went out and had several reconciling drinks. This has actually put a lot of joy in my heart (the lines from the childhood hymns come back!).

Not so much, though, that I don’t have heart left for the stamp of varied and sundry indignations left by the varied and sundry stupidities of the press.

Exhibit no. 1, yesterday, was the astonishing Deborah Lipstadt op ed piece about ex President Carter’s rather mild plea for the withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the West Bank and the end of the governance mess there and in the Gaza. About which Lipstadt had only to say that Carter has not genuflected with enough fervor to the holocaust, and thus is an anti-semite – but, being a just person in all things, Lipstadt was willing to concede that perhaps he is just an unconscious bigot. Lipstadt, you see, embraces the larger view.

This is almost spookily stupid – especially as you can tell that Lipstadt’s (non) argument is pretty close to the orthodoxy among the muscular liberal-neo con set that so rule the roost in the WAPO op ed pages, and probably does reflect the central bias of the policy set in D.C.

The Eichmann made me do it excuse for the West Bank land grab wouldn’t convince a first grader. Lipstadt, a historian, would do well to read a book of history – any book of history – about Israel’s post 67 West Bank policy.

However, I am not going to grapple with a piece that serves, really, only that old and hoary function of injecting a vague hint of anti-semitism into any criticism of Israel. Rather, I’d like to spotlight one of the mythemes in the piece, since it now travels about in the Press like as a convenient warmongering piece of DNA, a little transpone, bringing us visibly nearer to war with Iran. In the past, LI has vigorously downplayed the idea that the U.S. is going to war with Iran, and we find the fervent belief that Bush is always a week away from it among leftwingers – who have been saying we are a week away from attacking Iran since 2004 – extremely puzzling. Both the left and the right often participate in a shared illusion of American hyper-powerdom, but reality has always put strict limits to the extent and exercise of American power. It is exercised best when America has implanted, in a given country, an endogenous pro-consular class. But usually, America avoids the direct violence route.

Still, in the final instance, we are being run by an essentially criminal collective, which is obviously thinking of winding up its pathetic run by attacking Iran. If the wishes of the executive were obeyed as direct orders – the Fuhrer-prinzip that Cheney has tried to instill in the government over the last six years – than we would be attacking Iran. In lieu of that, the warmongering sockpuppets do try to inject, in any mention of Iran, the idea that the country is on the verge of attacking Israel. And one of the ways they do this is to infinitely fold spindle and mutilate a quote of President Ahmadinejad – in Lipstadt’s piece, that comes out as: “When an Ahmadinejad or Hamas threatens to destroy Israel, Jews have historical precedent to believe them.” I’m not even going into the facile identity between Israel and Jews, here, - an identity that is unrealistic and, in fact, symbolic of the kind of nationalism many of the greatest figures of Jewish culture in the 19th and 20th century fought against like mad – or the idea that the threat to a state, Israel, is of the same order and nature as the threat to the Jewish inhabitants of various countries in Europe. This is to spiral down into Ron Rosenbaum style madness. No, what concerns me is simply that quote. Not whether the quote has been mistranslated – I don’t know enough about Farsi to give you a donkey’s fart worth of wisdom on that issue. What isn’t undisputed is that Ahmadinejad is citing Khomeini. Now, if we are truly to take the quote as a military threat against Israel, then surely it was a military threat when Khomeini uttered it too. Logically, then, Israel should have received it as a threat from Khomeini and acted accordingly.

But if you look back at the 80s, you will notice right away that the quote wasn’t pulled out to justify some attack on Iran by Israel – rather it was ignored as the rightwing government in Israel helped arm Iran and support a closer relationship between the U.S. and Iran. Far from viewing themselves as partisans in the Polish woods, at that time, the Israeli government viewed themselves as maneuvering an alliance against Iraq. They viewed themselves, quite sensibly, as a state.

An article in the summer, 2005 issue of Iranian studies by Trita Parsi, “Israel-Iranian Relations Assessed: Strategic Competition from the Power Cycle Perspective,”
sums up the real history of the relationship between Iran and Israel quite well:

Iran’s foreign policy is believed to have lost much of its ideological zeal after the death of Khomeini. One often cited exception to this general pattern is Iran’s relations with Israel. Tehran’s posture on Israel and the Middle East peace process is often explained as a remnant of its revolutionary and ideological past and contradictory to Iran’s national interest. However, this analysis neglects crucial systemic changes that occurred in the Middle East after 1991, as well as
Israel’s willingness to improve relations with Iran at the height of Iran’s revolutionary fervor in the 1980s and the Islamic regime’s refusal to allow ideological considerations to stand in its way to purchase arms from Israel. Furthermore, it reduces Israel’s role in the equation to that of a non-actor whose destiny is limited to mere reactions to Iran’s ideological designs.

Parsi hauls up a lot of inconvenient, old news from the memory hole:

The two Israeli leaders that in the early 1990s initiated a very aggressive Iran policy pursued a diametrically opposite policy only a few years earlier. In 1987, Yitzhak Rabin argued that Iran remained an ally geo-politically.40 Shimon Peres, who sought a “broader strategic relationship with Iran,” urged President Reagan to seek a dialogue with Tehran.

It is an axiom of punditry that, in pursuing the usual quest to kill people on a large scale, one needs to forget that those same people, years earlier, were allies in another quest to kill another set of people on a large scale. For the Lipstadt’s of the world, of course, being pro-Iranian in 1987 was resisting the Nazis, and being for war against Iran in 2006 is still resisting the Nazis. We evermore resist the Nazis.

Well, enough of the various bogosities of this subject, and onto another piece of news about the Bush administration which is – in obedience to the law of news governing the way the press has reported the Global war on Terror – 3 years late.

“An Iranian offer to help the United States stabilize Iraq and end its military support for Hezbollah and Hamas was rejected by Vice President Dick Cheney in 2003, a former top State Department official told the British Broadcasting Corp.

The U.S. State Department was open to the offer, which came in an unsigned letter sent shortly after the American invasion of Iraq, Lawrence Wilkerson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, told BBC's Newsnight in a program broadcast Wednesday night. But, Wilkerson said, Cheney vetoed the deal.”

As faithful readers will remember – well, not really, but as this faithful writer remembers – LI’s position before the invasion was that the U.S. could and should aim at having Saddam Hussein overthrown in Iraq. It could do this by a., establishing détente with Iran, Hussein’s number one enemy, and b., showering Northern Iraq, separated from Hussein’s Iraq for 5 years, with aid. Sanctions were stupid and killing so long as they were instituted in the framework of the double sanctions on both nations. The neo-cons were right to decry the sanction system as it was under Clinton, but wrong to promote the belligerent approach – and wrong to think that the U.S. policy should be aimed at maintaining American hegemony in the Middle East when the conditions for that hegemony had so dramatically changed in the post Cold War era.

Obviously, LI’s idea was not only rational, but possible. Its rejection has led to the current debacle. Neither party is willing to de-structure the root cause of that debacle – American superpowerdom.

Let the empire turn up its little heels and die is our advice.


Aid to the north might not have gone over well with Turkey. They're in a perpetual panic over the Kurds. Of course, it might have done a lot of good for the Kurds, and in Iran and Syria as well.
roger said…
Ah, I'm a turkophile, and though the dirty war against the kurds served the worst elements, the kurdish sendero luminoso was itself one of the worst guerrilla movements.

Really, though, the turks want certain assurances. I doubt I could second guess what those are, or second guess the troubles that my suggestions would lead to. However, I'd have... other suggestions about those troubles.

The troubles wouldn't involve mass killing - a minor point for a D.C. think tanker, but I'm such a putz that I think this is an advantage.
I would LOVE to second guess your proposals, right down to second guessing other people who second guess them, but only if I get a think tank job and get to do it on television.

Actually, aid to the north and the south would have made Hussein a non-entity in the region. He would have lost all face and seen an exodus of people seeking a better life in the supported areas. It could have defanged (an already toothless snake, but no matter) him for good. People aren't all that interested in fighting when there's a reasonably good chance for advancement and some sort of social justice in place. In most cases, redistribution will do. A boomtown version of that could have been had on the cheap. I doubt it would have destablized the region to any harmful degree. There's a quality of resignation in the people of there that only the most vicious repression goads into violence -- though there may well have been headaches for uptight social conservatives coping with different cultural mores.

Roger, I'm pretty sure, without even looking, that something like your plan occurred to members of the strategic class. And I think it was rejected out of hand precisely because it didn't involve mass killing, things going "KABOOM!" and a chance to wear the codpiece on a flight deck somewhere. Effectivness has consistently taken a distant last place to the vanity of the political class.