The Neoconservatives, despite wandering in the wilderness after their Iraq debacle, are trying to keep the dream of serial wars in the Middle East alive. Freedom Watch and the Foundation for Democracy in Iran sponsored a National Press Club event on November 17, in which former CIA director James Woolsey, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, and former UN ambassador Alan Keyes demanded war on Iran.
There’s little reason to believe that the sort of propaganda they were pushing will end any time soon, or that the corporate media will ever give it the wholehearted condemnation it deserves, much less see it prosecuted under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which bans war propaganda. But the desperation in the voices of these cheerleaders for war speaking to an almost empty room, and the media’s choice to completely ignore them, is heartening.
The full event is available in video on the website of Freedom Watch, the group that sponsored the conference.
In watching it, I spotted several of the major types of war lies that are analyzed in my book War Is A Lie: Iran must be attacked because it is evil and demonic, including in ways that do not threaten anyone outside Iran in any way. At the same time, attacking Iran would be an act of defense, not offense. We can take this defensive step or perish — there is no other choice. And, in addition, while Iran or at least its government is evil, a war on Iran would be a humanitarian act on behalf of the people we would be bombing, an act in the name of democracy whether they want it or not. The war would not actually hurt anyone, or at least would be far milder than the rape and torture of the evil dictator. War would liberate the Iranians.
War rationales that don’t work as propaganda, like control of the earth’s oil supply, were openly stated once and then ignored. That, too, is typical. Real reasons for war are not secret, they’re just not repeated over and over.
Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch spoke first and denounced the U.S. policy of “appeasement” toward Iran. But appeasement is supposed to mean a failure to resist attack. Iran has not attacked anyone in centuries. Iran has not made any demands on our nation. Iran has learned to produce a couple tons of low-enriched uranium for fuel or medicine — a catastrophically bad choice, but one the law permits and one the United States has also made. Iran has been falsely alleged to be developing nuclear weapons. If, despite the absence of evidence, Iran were developing such weapons, how would that be something for the United States to appease, and how would we be appeasing it? Apparently by failing to launch a war on the basis of the possibility that Iran might get nuclear weapons someday, the likelihood of which is of course increased by all the U.S. talk of launching a war.
Klayman also claimed that “the Persian people” need to be “set free.” But much as we dislike our own rulers, do we want — and does law permit — a foreign military to come in and “set us free”? The propaganda point is to make Ahmadinejad into such a devil that Americans will support a war to save Iranians from him, even though such a case for war has absolutely no basis in law and no connection to the other lies about an Iranian threat to the United States, and even though most of the people who would be killed would be ordinary Iranians.
Next up was Woolsey, a member of the Project for the New American Century who pushed the bogus idea of an Iraq connection to 9-11 within hours of the 9-11 airplanes striking their targets. Woolsey explained that Ahmadinejad is a new Hitler. Iran is very similar to Nazi Germany, he claimed– totalitarian and intent on killing all the Jews. He did not explain why Iran’s 25,000 Jews have a representative in parliament and continue to live peacefully as Iranian citizens. Woolsey obsessed that Iran has uranium that could conceivably be enriched further to produce fissile material for a bomb, though in theory all countries that have research reactors, such as Holland, could do the same thing.
Talking to Iran would be naïve, Woolsey said. Speaking from the capital of the largest empire ever known with a military larger than the next 14 militaries in the world combined, Woolsey explained that when we talk to enemies they view us as weak. That’s how Ahmadinejad views us, he claimed. The point did not seem to be that Iran would commit national suicide by attacking us, so much as that our egos should feel slighted and we should want to compel international respect by refusing to speak to anyone.
We need to get serious about sanctions, said Woolsey, but it may be too late. Too late for what exactly? Apparently too late to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, although according to the 16 US government intelligence agencies, Iran does not have a bomb, does not even have a weapons program, and cannot possibly have warhead any time soon. If Iran is allowed to continue, Woolsey remarked — apparently forgetting what nation he’s a citizen of — “then we in Israel and in the United States” will face some very serious decisions. Woolsey said that Iranian nukes were not acceptable to the American people, and Iran was very close to having them. He cited no evidence for either claim.
If force is used, Woolsey said, it must destroy the Revolutionary Guard, but not the Iranian people. Yeah? How will that be done?
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, (R., Minn.) denounced Iran’s “ever-impending threat to nearly every nation of the world.” Iran “continues to strut and deploy,” she said, meaning something I’m sure, and probably something related to whatever motivates people to back wars through which their nation can claim dominance and respect. “They already have nuclear capability,” she announced. “Ahmadinejad has announced his intention to bomb the state of Israel,” she lied.
Quickly abandoning the supposed case for war, Bachmann focused on demonizing Ahmadinejad. Iranian protesters were shot and tortured last year “by their own government,” she said. Presumably the idea is that such crimes cause less suffering if committed by someone else’s government. Hence our humanitarian role.
Bachmann concluded by claiming to want peace. She was then asked how Bush and Obama have differed on Iran. Bachmann declined to pretend she had any idea but said that Iran is insulting us and thumbing its nose at us.
Just when you might have thought we’d scraped the bottom in Iran war advocacy, Alan Keyes took a turn at the karaoke stage. Keyes was quite upset about the “imperialistic essence of Islam since its inception.” Never mentioning the one nation with military bases on every continent, Keyes stood strong against “imperialistic ambition that rears its head throughout the world.” Who do we find resisting our aggressive wars all over the world, Keyes asked, using other language — why, Iran, of course. We’re being “beaten and pummeled” around the world every day by forces driven by Islam and Marxism. Who knew?
“I’m not going to say that those in power in our own country are as hostile to our nation’s security as our enemies are. I’m not going to say that,” said Keyes before saying it, hitting on a very common propaganda technique that equates war opposition with joining the other side of a war — even if there is no other side because there is no war yet.
Also speaking was a man with the false name Reza Kahlili, a mask, sunglasses, a “FREE IRAN” baseball cap, and a distorted voice. He was billed as a defector from the Iranian Guard and a former CIA spy, although his remarks suggested that either he still works for the CIA or they used to pay him unnecessarily. Kahlili described a history of Europe and China selling weapons to Iran — as if the United States has not done the same, as if you can fight a war against an unarmed country, as if you can sell arms to Saudi Arabia without making sure Iran is armed first!
Kahlili also announced that Iran has a nuclear program and explained that President Obama is doing everything wrong. We need to control the oil, Kahlili explained, and to stop the spread of weapons to terrorists. Rather than opposing weapons sales or aggressive actions that generate terrorism, Kahlili proposed changing the government of someone else’s nation. We need to help the Iranians overthrow the regime, he said. If we appease Hitler we will witness another holocaust, he explained.
The evil Islamic regime rapes and tortures, he said, ending with “god bless” — a comment presumably directed to a non-Islamic god.
Ken Timmerman of NewsMax claimed that by failing to help Iranian protesters, Obama was strengthening the evil regime. Obama has also dared to communicate with Iran without making his communications public. That must not be tolerated.
Where could this conference go after a rightwing reporter demanding regime change and denouncing the president for not waging enough war? To September 11, of course! Vincent Forras spoke as a September 11 first responder who denounced the idea of building a mosque near the “holy ground” of “ground zero.” This was supposed to strengthen the case for war on Iran but not involve bigotry of any sort. I’ll admit I can’t see how that works.
Klayman concluded by stressing again that Iran’s is a “modern-day neo-Nazi regime” where “they hate Christians and Jews.” A good ruler of Iran, he said, was the Shah — never mentioning the U.S. coup that overthrew Iran’s democratically elected president to put that U.S.-government-friendly dictator in place. Even more disturbing were Klayman’s final words about his supposed love for the “Persian people who have largely broken away from Islam.” Klayman believes “they need to find faith,” Christian faith apparently.
That ought to work.
David Swanson is author of
War is a Lie (Charlottesville, Va., Nov. 2010).