Thursday, September 7, 2006

McKenna on Iran: "One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter"

Terry McKenna's back today to bring us up to date on the situation with Iran, in terms of history, perspective, and a grim warning. First, however, for some grim comedy, check out Alterman's blog for a list of Rush-isms, as Eric discusses Katie Couric's strange pronouncement that she intends to consult Limbaugh in her campaign to restore "civility" to the media. It's pretty funny...sick, but funny.

Also at MSNBC, we have Keith Olbermann, once again, sending a note of stern eloquence toward the Bushies. KO is swiftly developing into this generation's Murrow.

And now, Terry McKenna on Iran:

What you hear is the persistent drum beat tapping our the message: STOP IRAN. The right wing talk machine has linked a string of loose associations: Iran, Islamo-Fascism, nuclear weapons, terrorists, appeasement, national security. We are being led to a false conclusion that war with Iran is inevitable.

If we are headed for war, perhaps it's time to learn something about the people we are prepared to destroy (we’ll even convince ourselves that the war was for their own good.)

Iran is modern day Persia. Unlike the rest of its Muslim peers, it was neither colonized by the west, nor was it part of the far-flung Ottoman Empire. Although it contains many diverse ethnic groups, it has a mostly unified culture operating under a single language, Farsi. It is a physically large nation with a large population (its population is roughly the same as Turkey’s or Egypt’s). Compared to Israel, it has 10 times as many citizens and 20 times the landmass.

It is surrounded by contentious neighbors: Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan – Iran must also contend with the United States, which currently has troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Most significant for America, Iran is a major oil producer.

Although it was not directly colonized, by the 1800’s, Iran came under Western influence. In the 20th century, Great Britain gained an oil concession that eventually became the oil giant BP. In 1951, a left-leaning democratic government nationalized the oil fields; Great Britain persuaded the US to foment a coup d'état (using the CIA). The Shah was re-installed as a pro-western puppet. By 1978, the Shah’s oppression was unsustainable; democratic elements allied with Islamic factions, and together fomented the 1979 Islamic revolution. The US was rightly seen as an enemy, and our embassy (the seat of CIA operations) was a hated symbol of our malign influence. The hostage-taking itself was apparently an unplanned event that got out of hand. Although shocking at the time, we should accept it as payback for our government's misdeeds.

We also need to revisit Iran’s support for terrorism. As noted above, Iran is surrounded by contentious neighbors, one of whom (Iraq) attacked it in 1981. During the course of this war, Iraq was supported by many states, including the US, Great Britain, France and Saudi Arabia. Iran had the support of only Syria, North Korea and Libya. Iran’s support for Middle Eastern terror groups (primarily Hezbollah and Hamas) must be seen in the context of the larger power game where the US is also a player. We too sponsor surrogates (we supported the Mujahidin in Afghanistan and have armed Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan). As we all know, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

Regarding Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, that too must be seen as part of the region’s politics. The US’s long-term goal of limiting nuclear proliferation was always a gamble. It was expected that most nations could be persuaded to develop only non-military forms of nuclear energy. Fortunately, most played along, but a significant minority did not - notably, France, South Africa, Israel, China, India and Pakistan. Now, North Korea and Iran are up to bat and it doesn’t look good.

We need to ask ourselves two questions: 1) if you were faced with the U.S. as your primary enemy, wouldn’t you go nuclear? And 2) can we prevail with a pre-emptive attack on Iran?

The answer to #1 is a clear yes. Our attack on Iraq has shown all potential US enemies that the best way to restrain US arms is to have nuclear weapons. Regarding # 2, after the failure of the Iraq war, it is more and more clear that the US has only a small chance to succeed in a full-scale invasion of Iran. A surgical attack against the nuclear facilities might do better – that is, it would prevent our being trapped in a quagmire - but the risks of long-term adverse fallout are such that we should not attempt even a surgical strike. Curiously, some specialists suggest that a small (surgical) attack is just what the Iranian leader (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) wants. Such an attack would distract Iranians from noticing numerous domestic failures (sound familiar?) — and unite a population that is otherwise uniquely disposed toward America.

Years ago, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US nearly attacked the Soviet Union. Before the confrontation, President Kennedy had been an uncompromising cold warrior. Afterward, he changed his tone dramatically. Here is a portion of one of his greatest speeches, in which he recognized that the West must work with and not against its enemies:

So, let us not be blind to our differences - But let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.

… Let us reexamine our attitude toward the cold war, remembering that we are not engaged in a debate, seeking to pile up debating points. We are not here distributing blame or pointing the finger of judgment. We must deal with the world as it is, and not as it might have been had the history of the last 18 years been different.

Can we imagine that anyone will look to one of George Bush’s speeches forty years hence? Not a chance!

Now back to the present drama. The talking points have been assembled. The question is, will we act? Or will we wisely pull back from the brink?

Two links to review, the first one features William Kristol. The second concerns a more obscure person, Michael Ledeen, an editor for National Review On-Line. It behooves all of us to become familiar with their rhetoric so that we can be ready to defeat it.

Last note, this from Wikipedia: "Fascism is a radical totalitarian political philosophy that combines elements of corporatism, authoritarianism, extreme nationalism, militarism, anti-anarchism, anti-communism and anti-liberalism."

Notice how many of these elements apply to the Bush administration.

—T. McKenna

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