Michael J. Totten is one of the best war journalists working today. I have linked several times to his excellent reporting. This morning he promotes an article he wrote being published in the October issue of Reason Magazine. An excerpt can be found at his blog.
Being a nut for the obscure, I found myself following a longish comments thread attached to the post. Wading through the mire of carping, one-upsmanship and backbiting that is the mark of most such threads (despite occasional efforts on the part of the blogmaster to keep comments on track --herding cats, as it were...) I came upon the passionate, articulate outpouring that appears below. Read here the words of someone who is an Iranian patriot with a commendable gift of expression.
These words are aimed at the many and growing number of Americans whose attitudes about a potential military conflict between the US and Iran are being deliberately whipped into a frenzy by...I'm not sure by whom.
It is clear that a critical mass in favor of a war with Iran is being encouraged by someone or some group. Fox network, "fair and balanced reporting" notwithstanding, is not the source. But patriotic snake-oil has always been a good seller with a lucrative profit margin. Better than umbrellas in April.
And I don't think thoughtful military leaders are to blame. Responsible, thoughtful military types really do prefer peace to war, despite what many people believe. They know that their jobs are secure in the same way that physicians and dentists know they don't need to promote sickness and tooth decayto keep their jobs.
No, something else is at work. But I still haven't decided what it is. Meantime, read what follows. It reminds me of the words of an Old Testament prophet, but this is a cyber-epistle...
There are no permalinks to individual comments. This appears way down the string and was posted just past midnight last night.
MJT: "Some people can't be freed at gunpoint, at least not quickly or easily and without massive convulsions. This is the main reason I don't favor an American invasion of Iran at this time..."
Hey Mike (and a lot of you guys), what about a US invasion of Iran NEVER... Why the bleeeepity bleep don't all you helpful American liberal interventionists and hard headed neo con realists please mind your own business for a change and let Iran work itself out in its own time?
This country has been through and is going through quite enough, thank you, and it really doesn't need more violence. Change may come but - God willing - not through the barrel of a gun again (even a nice photogenic flowery one).
If the argument for a putative intervention or attack is grounded in President Ahmedinejad's caustic musings and GW Bush's recent "impending nuclear holocaust" notions, it's a crap argument.
Personally I think that many of the comments Ahmedinejad has made about Israel, Jews and the Holocaust are deeply offensive, undignified, unnecessary, stupid and cruel - not least to the 25,000 Jews who still chose to live here in Iran, but I also think that these facile pronouncements are now being overplayed and used to justify/further some extremely dangerous strategic agendas in an already volatile region.
Regarding the Iranian nuclear issue: My personal opinion is pursuing The Bomb, with all the global grief it would/is entailing, is a hugely expensive waste of money for a country with an already shaky economy -- and it could indeed trigger an unnecessary scramble by other regional states for the same thing (notably by everyone's favourite fat bastard Wahhabi chums, the Saudis) - and Bomb or no Bomb, I am not at all keen on the idea Chernobyl-era Russian made nuclear reactors being built all over a country with as many tectonic fault lines as Iran. I have filmed inside a Chernobyl type reactor once, at Ignalina in Lithuania. Not good.
Nevertheless, Iran has a technical and legal right to develop nuclear power as a signitory of the NPT. So why shouldn't it explore alternative energy sources?
Aha... I bet I know the answer.... Iran as a country has no need for alternative energy sources as it is sitting on all that oil and gas – so the nuclear programme must obviously be a cover for making deadly atomic weapons. Am I right, guys?
Well, this stance isn't consistent. In fact, it reeks of hypocrisy. The Iranian quest for nuclear power began under the Shah in 1959 with US assistance, under the so-called “Atoms for Peace” programme. Ultimately, the plan was for Iran to have some 23 nuclear reactors in place by 2000.
Indeed, by 1976 the Ford administration was offering the Shah the chance to buy a facility for reprocessing plutonium from nuclear fuel -- and thus for a complete nuclear fuel cycle. The Ford strategy paper said the "introduction of nuclear power will both provide for the growing needs of Iran's economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals."
A nuclear powered Iran seemed such a cool idea back then. But who was pushing the plan from Washington's end? There were two main movers.... ah, what fun... There was the White House Chief of Staff, who at the time was none other than… Dick Cheney, and Ford's Secretary of Defense: Mr. Donald Rumsfeld.
So what's changed? Basically we uppity Iroonis had ourselves a revolution and kicked out a vicious, corrupt US puppet regime (sadly replacing it with a turbanned Persian version) and Iran is no longer a compliant partner in US' Israel-centric, Petro-dollar bankrolled plans for the region. Well... So what? Let us Iranians rot in splendid isolation...
No can do. But why?
Aha... is it that Iran is apparently led by a madman anti-Semite who says he wants to kill all the Jews? He's a mini midget Hitler Mark 2, albeit in a cheap looking polyester suit -- and he said all those mean things about Israel, right?
Well excuse me...Are people here seriously advocating yet another a devastating military conflict in this long suffering part of the world because of what one increasingly weak man - with a track record of shooting his mouth off and playing to the gallery - may have said to a bunch of provincial students at some mooky conference, all because he wanted to sound like a tough guy with authentic revolutionary street cred?
You can't start wars just because of what someone says... Let's rewind...
....Back to August 1984 - it's the height of the Cold War and MAD - Ronald Reagan quipped into an open mic "My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes..."
Even in jest, this was highly irresponsible language from The Gipper, but would that have been Causus Belli for the Soviets? According to today's thinking, the righteous SS-20s ought to have been ramming into the Eastern seaboard.
It's May 8 2006, the day after Ahmedinejad's notorious (disputed) statement, Shimon Peres said in an interview with Reuters that "The president of Iran should remember that Iran can also be wiped off the map."
Now conventional wisdom has it that Israel already possesses several hundred nuclear warheads – Iran posseses none - and we can assume any number of those Israeli nukes are aimed at Iran right now. Mr. Peres was rightly criticised for these crass remarks by the Israeli media... sitting here, typing away in Tehran, I'm in Shimon's cross hairs, scary stuff when I think about it. But I wouldn't want to start a war over mere words.
And what about John McCain's recent attempts at a humorous cover version of the Beach Boys surfer classic? “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” he warbled. Not big, John, not clever - not even especially funny. But equally, not worth a single human life.
Besides, Ahmedinejad’s toxic ideas are most certainly NOT all shared by significant and powerful sections of the Iranian regime, who sconsider his brand of culturally and historically naive demagoguery an embarrassing liability.
However, for some mysterious reason, these alternative points of view have received scant, if any, coverage in the western media, even though they come from more important people than the President.
For example, Supreme Leader Khamenei`s main foreign policy advisor, Ali Akbar Valayati, refused to take part in Ahmedinejad’s Holocaust conference. In contrast to Ahmadinejad`s remarks, Velayati said that Holocaust was a genocide and a historical reality.
Similarly, back in November 2005 – days after the infamous Ahmedinejad student speech about Israel - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei himself, rejected any attack on the Jewish state, calling instead for a referendum in Palestine. I looked it up for you. He said:
"We hold a fair and logical stance on the issue of Palestine. Several decades ago, Egyptian statesman Gamal Abdel Nasser, who was the most popular Arab personality, stated in his slogans that the Egyptians would throw the Jewish usurpers of Palestine into the sea. Some years later, Saddam Hussein, the most hated Arab figure, said that he would put half of the Palestinian land on fire. But we would not approve of either of these two remarks. We believe, according to our Islamic principles, that neither throwing the Jews into the sea nor putting the Palestinian land on fire is logical and reasonable. Our position is that the Palestinian people should regain their rights.... The Islamic Republic of Iran has presented a fair and logical solution to this issue. We have suggested that all native Palestinians, whether they are Muslims, Christians or Jews, should be allowed to take part in a general referendum before the eyes of the world and decide on a Palestinian government. Any government that is the result of this referendum will be a legitimate government."
Even Mr. Ahmadinejad tried to downplay the impact of his ill conceived comments. For example, in a very interesting interview with Time magazine in September last year.
TIME: You have been quoted as saying Israel should be wiped off the map. Was that merely rhetoric, or do you mean it?
Ahmadinejad: People in the world are free to think the way they wish. We do not insist they should change their views. Our position toward the Palestinian question is clear: we say that a nation has been displaced from its own land. Palestinian people are killed in their own lands, by those who are not original inhabitants, and they have come from far areas of the world and have occupied those homes. Our suggestion is that the 5 million Palestinian refugees come back to their homes, and then the entire people on those lands hold a referendum and choose their own system of government. This is a democratic and popular way..."
Maurice Motamed, who is currently the only Jewish MP in Iran's parliament expressed his own sadness at the President's earlier remarks "Denial of such a great historical tragedy that is connected to the Jewish community can only be considered an insult to all the world's Jewish communities, " he said.
It was a theme picked up by former President Mohammad Khatami in February 2006. He said "We should speak out if even a single Jew is killed. Don't forget that one of the crimes of Hitler, Nazism and German National Socialism was the massacre of innocent people, among them many Jews."
Well, "many" is something of an understaement isn't it? Try six million, Mr Khatami. All those innocent people gone for ever. For nothing. What an evil, criminal waste.
And talking of criminal wastes... what about 1,000,000 lives? Not Jewish or American lives, this time. Iranian ones. Iranian soldiers. Iranian volunteer fighters. Don't worry folks.... they are not coming over the hill to get you. They are all already dead. And the American government helped kill them.
I went to Behesht- e-Zahra war cemetary the other day, as I always do when I visit Tehran, To pay repects to my brothers in the mud. This terrible, beautiful place is vast. It's the size of a small city, and I found myself walking through the massed ranks of headstones in tears.
As far as I am concerned those boys were heroes... and many of them were just boys. By the end of the imposed war the conscrition age was 14. But they did the right thing and I, who am of that generation, feel a shitty guilt for being alive while they are not. Believe me, my cyber friends, we have tasted enough of war to never want to see another. But we, the living, would fight for Iran all over again if we have to. I haven't time for Ahmedinejad and his gang and their nasty ways. I like American people, they are so friendly, so polite and so, well, childishly sweet when they are abroad. But this is our country, our land and the US Army is not welcome here. I made my way through the endless avenues of martyrs and I pondered the international situation. Leave us alone, I thought: We'll kill you if you come.
Remember, Iran is a country that was attacked with maximum force by Saddam Hussein in 1980 and yes, the best part of a million men were killed or maimed in 8 years of horrific fighting. Iran seemed to be up against the whole world at times: The Russians provided Saddam thousands of tanks, Hind-B helicopter gunships, Mig jets and Scud ballistic missiles, rocket launchers, artillery pieces -- all on credit. French Exocet missiles, Super Etendard bombers and Mirage fighter planes were also sold on tick (Yes, folks, that’s why the Russkis et Le Fromage Gobbling Surrender Monkeys backed Saddam prior to Gulf Wars 1 and 2 – they wanted their money back). The Brazilians flogged Iraq armoured cars and APCs, the Chinese sold yet more rocket launchers and jet planes, the Czechs APCs and more tanks, London flogged Radar sets, South Africa G-4 and G-5 artillery systems, Poland (Poland?!) sent over 900 tanks and 750 APCs, the list seems endless…
The Germans and US provided the precursor chemicals and technologies to manufacture nerve gas and blister agents (that's WMDs to you) that were used without restraint and dropped on our Iranian troop concentrations, located with the help of American supplied satellite photographs. In November 1983 a US National Security Directive stated that the U.S would do "…whatever was necessary and legal" to prevent Iraq from losing its war with Iran. What was"necessary and legal" somehow included illegally shipping Huey and Hughes helicopters, howitzers and bombs to Iraq via 3rd parties: Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, all in violation of the Arms Export Control Act. From 1984 the CIA began supplying the Iraqis with the necessary intelligence to calibrate their mustard gas attacks. In March, 1986 the United States along with Great Britain blocked all UN Security Council Resolutions condemning Iraq's use of chemical weapons, and on March 21 1986 the US became the only country that refused to sign a Security Council statement condemning Iraq's use of these Weapons of Mass Destruction. Not surprising really, as between 1985 and 1989 the US had also secretly exported 21 batches of lethal strains of Anthrax and further shipments of weapons grade Botulinum to Baghdad.
The plump Gulf State Sheikhs bankrolled the entire Iraqi war effort, so Iran began to try and hit Kuwaiti oil tankers that were carrying “Iraqi” oil. In March 1987 the US re-flagged Kuwaiti oil tankers as US vessels and effectively joined the war as a combatant on Iraq’s side. On May 17th that same year, the warship USS Stark was attacked for no apparent reason. But not by Iran. An Iraqi Mirage F-1 fired off 2 Exocets: 37 American sailors were killed, 21 wounded. "We will not be intimidated," said then Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. "We will not be driven from the Gulf." He described the attack on the Stark as a "horrible error." Saddam Hussein was quick to apologize for the "unintentional incident." He paid money to compensate. And the US remained on Iraq’s side.
In 1988 the American guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes, sailing under the robust stewardship of a man called Commander William C Rogers, found itself inside Iranian territorial waters. Rogers was desperately trying to engage some Iranian navy speedboats, so keen was he for his state-of-the-art vessel to see some action. Suddenly the Vincennes' hi tech radar locked onto an approaching target and its "highly trained" crew shot down an Iranian plane.
Unfortunately the aircraft in question was a civilian Airbus, Iran Air 655 on a sheduled flight to Dubai, carrying some 290 civilians – including 66 children. Everyone on board was killed. At a press conference on July 3rd 1988, the then Vice President, George Bush Snr said of the incident "I will never apologize for the United States of America— I don’t care what the facts are."
In 1990 Mr. Bush awarded Commander Rogers the Legion of Merit "for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as commanding officer ... from April 1987 to May 1989." No mention was made of the Airbus incident.
So I think we have had quite enough help from America.
Iran has been accused of “interfering” in Iraq and I have no doubt this is true. But it would be highly surprising if any country didn’t try to influence events in a neighbouring state which had at one time launched an unprovoked war, but was now near collapse and currently occupied by over 100,000 potentially hostile troops.
Besides, seen from Tehran, the US has done more than its fair share of “interfering” in Iraq, and while Washington shrilly accuses the Iranians of backing Shia militias, it is an open secret that the US are aiding and abetting Kurdish, Baluch, Azeri and Khuzestani separatist factions inside Iran’s borders. While Iran’s shadowy IRGC “Qods” force has been accused of black ops in Iraq, we also read that US special forces have been on the ground in Iran for months, selecting targets for possible bombing. The BBC programme Newsnight has reported that Israeli Private Military Companies were subcontracted by the US to train Kurdish-Iranian dissidents (who were, it transpires, not informed of their instructors’ origins).
What’s good for the goose, Tehran might argue, is good for the gander.
But the idea that Iran wants – or will ever be in a position – to liquidate Israel, reinstate some sort of a martyrdom crazed Shi’ite Caliphate and conquer the entire Middle East, whilst merrily handing out James Bond style briefcase sized mini-nukes like candy to any random Salafist nut job who comes begging, all the while aiming its low-tech knock-off North Korean Scud clone ICBMs at Europe is comical. Or rather it would be, were it not for the fact that a great number of people in the West actually believe this scaremongering, dangerous propaganda.
That the US is relying on highly questionable, duplicitous players linked to Maryam Rajavi’s cultish People’s Mojahedeen (MEK/NCRI) for its intelligence on Iran, is resonant of the Ahmad Chalabi debacle. This organisation is still on the State Dept's list of terrorist groups and membership entails unusual features such as female led combat units, compulsory divorces, moral confession cleansing sessions and forced separation of kids from their parents.
The group was armed and supported by Saddam Hussein. Utterly discredited inside Iran, they group fought alongside Iraqi soldiers throughout the Iran-Iraq war. Indeed in 1991 these traitors were used as shock troops by Saddam Hussein during the murderous Anfal campaign against the Kurds. Rajavi exhorted her followers to "save your bullets for the Revolutionary guards -- we can crush these Kurds under our tank tracks."
Being duped into an ill conceived war based on shit “intelligence” and outright lies has got us where we are today in Iraq: decent American and British servicemen and women are being killed and maimed daily for no obvious end benefit, the wretched country has become something of a Jihadi theme-park. Many of those ordinary day-to-day Iraqis we came to liberate – if they are not being slaughtered in cycles of revenge whose origins no-one can remember – are living an imitation of life in a shattered economy, under the constant threat of full blown sectarian civil war.
There is absolutely no need to replicate this tragic situation on an even grander, bloodier scale next door.
Do not worry about Iran, my friends. We are nice, decent and a threat to no-one. Like water, the people here will find their own level.
But this time we'll do it our way and without your help.