Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Blame It On Iran!"
The Milli Vanilli-style Broken Record
of the War-Mongering US Government

Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.

- Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Oct. 29, 1939)
Whether or not the first illegal air strike will come from the US or Israel, one thing is clear: the aggressive build-up to a "war" with Iran has been high on the agenda of this administration for quite some time and continues to roll on, bizarrely, despite the fact that everything they have said has been a lie.

Since people these days seem only to have the attention span of a frisky chihuahua and a selective memory ranking somewhere between Alzheimer's and lobotomy, I won't attempt to create a comprehensive study of the rhetoric and propaganda by the US (and Israel) to demonize and disparage the country of Iran, its government, and its people. We need only to look at a few recent issues.

In every single mainstream media piece about Iran, Iran's (perfectly legal) nuclear energy program, and the supposed "threat" that Iran poses to the rest of the world, there is one oft-repeated tidbit of information that is thrown in for good measure, lest the distracted people of Amurica forget:

The president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has previously called to "wipe Israel off the map."

The number of times we all have heard this or read this is astounding. It's a constant refrain, echoed ad nauseam. But it's a lie. He never said that, and not only because that turn of phrase doesn't even exist as a Persian idiom.

For one, he was quoting Ayatollah Khomeini with regards to Zionist control over historic Palestine. The actual quote was this:
"The Imam [Khomeini] said that this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time."

This may not seem like much of an improvement on the mistranslation, but Juan Cole explains it this way:
"Ahmadinejad was not making a threat, he was quoting a saying of Khomeini and urging that pro-Palestinian activists in Iran not give up hope -- that the occupation of Jerusalem was no more a continued inevitability than had been the hegemony of the Shah's government. Whatever this quotation from a decades-old speech of Khomeini may have meant, Ahmadinejad did not say that 'Israel must be wiped off the map' with the implication that phrase has of Nazi-style extermination of a people. He said that the occupation regime over Jerusalem must be erased from the page of time."

For a number of credible sources on this issue (and others), please read the following articles by Juan Cole, Jonathan Steele (and this detailed follow-up), Gary Leupp, Paul Joseph Watson, Stephen Zunes, and this excellent piece by Arash Norouzi.

So, Ahmadinejad never threatened to physically wipe out the state of Israel (nor would he even have the administrative authority to do so if he wanted to) and has stated repeatedly his stance that the people of Palestine should be able to decide their own fate - that is, all the people of Palestine. This can be attested to by any number of speeches he has given, including comments made during his visit to Columbia University in September 2007.

This constantly proliferated mistranslation of Ahmadinejad's words, as well as the constant phony claims of Iranian anti-Semitism, serves the purpose of consistently reminding people of the false information by which they will then form their "own" opinions...thusly shaping wider public opinion against Iran and its leaders.

Moving on, we can easily see that the drum beat to some sort of stand-off with Iran has a constant roll for sometime. For instance, a mere four months after massive, spontaneous candlelight vigils were held in major cities all over in Iran in mourning for the tragic loss of life on 9/11 and in solidarity with the grieving American people (something that, however, did not occur in such strong US 'allies' in the Middle East as Israel and Saudi Arabia), Bush made his infamous "Axis of Evil" speech on January 29, 2002. This unfounded and appalling accusation of Iran being a major threat to the world was very surprising to the people of Iran and began a more nationalistic and conservative movement (much like what happened in the US after 9/11) that eventually led to the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a far less liberal candidate than others on the ballot and than his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami.

Since then, we have seen and heard all manner of propaganda and rhetoric designed to scare the public about the "evil threat" of a "dangerous nation" run by "religious zealots" who pose an "imminent danger" to the "entire" world. Now, looking back that last sentence, I can think of one country (maybe two) that best illustrates a hostile entity with that kind of imperial resume. (Hint: it's the one that bombed, destroyed, and invaded, currently occupying two countries - that conveniently flank Iran on both sides.)

The efforts to demonize Iran know no bounds, nor are they particularly concerned with the truth. After the unsuccessful attempts to create a casus belli out of a trumped up 'hostage crisis' involving British Royal Navy personnel, unsuccessful sanctions bullied through the Security Council by the US; constantly conflating Iran and 9/11, Ahmadinejad and Hitler, and Islam and fascism (read this great article by Ismael Hossein-Zadeh, professor of economics at Drake University, Des Moines, IA, entitled "Distorting Fascism"); the constant pandering of the American Media to the Bush administration's obsession with promoting anti-Iranian propaganda, the bullying and embarrassing vitriol launched at Ahmadinejad by right-wing darling Lee Bollinger at Columbia (see the response from a group of Iranian Academics); false claims about Iranian non-compliance with the IAEA and a nuclear weapons program that was finally proved illegitimate by the recent NIE report; the passing of the Kyl-Leiberman bill declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (an elite part of the Iranian military, not some fringe militia) a 'terrorist organization; attempting to rally other Gulf States against Iran, and of course, the completely unsubstantiated claims by US government that Iran has been responsible for arming Iraqi and Afghani "insurgents" with Persian-made IEDs that are targeting the US military, the war-mongering seems to go on unabated.

Whenever the public seems sufficiently unsatisfied with the government's push for a preemptive strike on Iran (a nation that hasn't threatened or attacked any other nation in centuries), there is always some new "serious event" that rouses the ridiculous Iranophobic fears of ignorant and gullible (read: most) Americans.

Most recently, we were subjected to an absurd charade of Blair Witch-style film making by the US Navy, which was reportedly troubled by the 'aggressive' maneuvers by five Iranian naval speedboats (that resemble one engine toy motorboats) in the vicinity of three US warships (that resemble Darth Vader's Stardestroyer) in the Strait of Hormuz on January 7, 2008.

When I first read the sensational headlines and saw the video released by the Pentagon, I was wary of the dubious claims right from the get-go, considering nothing I've heard from the mainstream media lately has had even a shred of truth in, with such an intense focus on sparking a confrontation with Iran, I knew that there were no limits to how low the US government would stoop to spread falsehoods. In fact, my very first response to someone asking me what I thought of this incident was this: "Maybe US patrol boats shouldn't enter Iranian waters to try and stir up more bogus claims of hostility."

The conversation continued like this:

GuyIKnow: international waters
Lord Baltimore: riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. it's nice that you believe what the Navy tells you. this government has a great track record for the truth!
GuyIKnow: everything is a conspiracy with you. you really think everything is a lie?
Lord Baltimore: i think this story is nonsense. the "hostage" angle didn't work, the made up shit about threatening Israel didn't work, the nuclear program nonsense didn't work...this is the newest attempt to get public opinion behind an attack on Iran.

This conversation happened at 2:18PM on January 7, only hours after the story had broken. I had read no information on this event besides the basic CNN/NYT/BBC stuff. But I knew it was just another attempt to start shit and blame it on Iran. A 21st Century Gulf of Tonkin. And I'm no journalist, I'm just not a gullible moron. Oh right, and I have a memory of all the other lies we've all been told.

The very next day, I see this report by Robert Fantina, author of Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776--2006:

January 8, 2008

The Gulf of Tonkin and the Strait of Hormuz


As the U.S. government continues to demonstrate its inability to learn from history, an alarming report from the Strait of Hormuz was broadcast to the world on January 7. The Associated Press reported the following: "In what U.S. officials called a serious provocation, Iranian boats harassed and provoked three U.S. Navy ships in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, threatening to explode the American vessels." These Iranian ships are believed to part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's navy, the organization that the U.S. Congress officially decreed a 'terrorist' organization.

Those either old enough to remember, or cognizant enough to understand history, will immediately be reminded of the infamous 'Gulf of Tonkin' incident, reported on August 2, 1964. On that day, the U.S. destroyer Maddox, on an espionage mission in the Gulf of Tonkin off the Vietnam coast, reported being fired on by North Vietnamese torpedo patrol boats. In response the Maddox fired back, sinking one boat. Tensions in the area were already growing, and now the world watched and waited.

On August 4 of that same year, the Maddox and the C. Turner Joy, another destroyer, were again patrolling the Gulf of Tonkin. Instruments on the Maddox indicated that it was either attacked or was under attack, and both the Maddox and the C. Turner Joy began firing back, with assistance from U.S. air power.

It was less than 24 hours later when the captain concluded that there might not have been an attack; why the instruments indicated otherwise was not clearly explained. The pilot of a Crusader jet, James B. Stockdale, undertook a reconnaissance flight over the gulf that evening. He was asked if he saw any North Vietnamese attack vessels. Mr. Stockdale did not equivocate in his response. Said he: "Not a one. No boats, no wakes, no ricochets off boats, no boat impacts, no torpedo wakes--nothing but black sea and American firepower."

Yet this non-event, either misinterpreted or fabricated altogether, was seen by an hysterical U.S. Congress, ever willing to protect America from its enemies, real or imagined, as aggression against the U.S. It also provided members of that august body with some additional 'I'm-strong- on-Communism' credentials, which were ever in demand from the end of World War II until the dawn of the world's newest bugaboo, 'terrorism.' Congress quickly passed the so-called 'Gulf of Tonkin Resolution,' which empowered President Lyndon Johnson to take all measures he deemed necessary to repel aggression. While this was not the start of the Vietnam War, it represented the first major escalation that did not end for over a decade, and cost the lives of over 50,000 U.S. soldiers, and between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 Vietnamese citizens. It caused havoc with the U.S. economy, brought near-revolution to American streets and campuses and drew hostility towards the U.S. from most of the world.

Today, an unidentified Pentagon official called this 'incident' in the Strait of Hormuz "a serious provocation." Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman referred to it as a "serious incident." Mr. Gordon Johndore, National Security Council spokesman said the United States urges the Iranians "to refrain from such provocative actions that could lead to a dangerous incident in the future."

It must be remembered that it was just a month ago that the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) determined that Iran ceased its nuclear weapons program four years ago. As President Bush was busy rattling his saber, and apparently itching to start yet another war, the NIE took the wind out of his bloody sails. He huffed and puffed and said, inexplicably, that the NIE report proved that Iran was still a great threat to the U.S., but it seemed that no one took him too seriously. Now, however, we have an 'incident.' Obviously, we are told, like in the Gulf of Tonkin 44 years ago, the U.S. has been the victim of 'aggression.'

It is, of course, unimportant to consider that Iran might understandably be a little trigger-happy when it sees U.S. naval vessels approaching. Just because Iran's next-door neighbor was invaded by the U.S. without provocation, and now is in the midst of a deadly occupation, should not in any way justify Iran's wariness. The fact that it was only a year ago that Mr. Bush sent a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf for no other reason than to intimidate Iran, and to participate in 'war games' (an oxymoron if ever there was one) in clear sight of one of the members of Mr. Bush's 'axis of evil,' should simply be ignored by Iran. The fact that the U.S. has a long and violent history of invading countries that displease it in some way (perhaps they have a democratically elected government that does not bow and scrape to the occupant of the White House throne) should not alarm Iran. Mr. Bush and his spokesman have not said that they plan to invade Iran; they simply said no options are off the table.

One waits in anxious impatience to see how Congress will react. Surely the slowly-dwindling multitudes seeking the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations will race each other to the microphone to denounce Iranian aggression, thus shining their patriotic credentials. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), who last fall voted to name Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, can gloat and glow with jingoistic satisfaction that that organization has now proven her right and her critics wrong, at least in her own mind. Perhaps former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, stumbling along on the path if not towards the Republican nomination, at least in its general direction, will endorse whatever Mr. Bush proclaims; after all, Mr. Romney has stated that it is Mr. Bush who has kept America safe (save for one or two unfortunate incidents in September of 2001). Will former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who never tires of reminding the voters that he and he alone was mayor of New York on September 11 2001 (whatever that may be worth), now raise the specter of Iranian terrorism in the U.S?

One could sit back and laugh at the nonsense proclaimed by the men and women who seek to lead the United States if their actions were not so dangerous. In 1964 an incident not unlike the one that allegedly took place in the Strait of Hormuz on January 8 of this year caused Congress to officially embark on America's most deadly imperial disaster. 'Flawed intelligence,' at best, and outright lies at worst paved the way for the current imperial mess which has the potential to dwarf America's Vietnam catastrophe. And now, with a lame duck president seeking to salvage his disgraced reputation, one wonders if this reported incident from Iran will have the same effect as the non-incident in the Gulf of Tonkin 44 years ago.

Mr. Bush & Co. have never been particularly interested in facts. They have not had any desire to listen to opposing opinions. They have happily ignored the wishes of the U.S. citizens. They apparently have been very interested in enriching themselves and their cronies, and have focused their desire for riches on oil, at the expense of the blood of their own, and Iraq's, citizens. They have used fear to get Congress to support their crimes. There is nothing to cause one to think things will be different now. Congress has proved its spinelessness over and over, and we all know that there is no reason for statesmanship when interesting, pander-to-the-fear-of-the-moment sound bytes are so much easier.

Whether or not this current situation leads Congress to justify an invasion of Iran, or other actions that will lead to an invasion, remains to be seen. But the U.S. has not learned from its own history, and another repeat of an unneeded and catastrophic war is not, unfortunately, unthinkable. That the president will not stop it is not surprising; that Congress will be complicit once again is unspeakable.

After reading this article, I began to see some more in the following days that further confirmed my belief that this 'incident' was fabricated by the Pentagon for the purposes of propaganda on the eve of Bush's visit to the Middle East...better for those pre-written speeches to have the ominous background of fear, I suppose. Plus, it must have provided a lighter respite in Bush's talks with Olmert regarding how best to starve all of Gaza's 1.5 million inmates at the least possible cost to Israel.

Here are some more reports that further destroy the 'official' version of the story:

01.10.08 - Official Version of Naval Incident Starts to Unravel by historian and national security policy analyst Gareth Porter (includes video of 'incident' released by Iran)

01.11.08 - Gareth Porter interviewed on Democracy Now! by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez

01.11.08 - US Video of Iran Speedboats Doctored; Iranians Charge Fabrication by Juan Cole on his Informed Comment blog

01.15.08 - Legal Mist Stokes US-Iran Tensions in Strait by Kaveh L Afrasiabi, a fascinating expose of the actual illegalities of US Naval ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz, containing these choice tidbits of information:
Tension spiked markedly last week when Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) speedboats were involved in an "incident" with three US Navy vessels, which claimed they were international waters.

Yet there is no "international water" in the Strait of Hormuz, straddled between the territorial waters of Iran and Oman. The US government claimed, through a Pentagon spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the three US ships "transiting through the Strait of Hormuz" were provocatively harassed by the speedboats. This was followed by the Pentagon's release of a videotape of the encounter, where in response to Iran's request for ship identification, we hear a dispatch from one of the US ships stating the ship's number and adding that "we are in international waters and we intend no harm".
Thus there is the issue of the exact whereabouts of the US ships at the time of the standoff with the Iranian boats manned by the IRGC patrolling the area. According to Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgiff, the US ships were "five kilometers outside Iranian territorial waters". Yet, this is disputed by another dispatch from the US ships that states, "I am engaged in transit passage in accordance with international law."

and this:
US warships transiting through Hormuz must, in effect, act as non-war ships, "temporarily depriving themselves of their armed might". And any "warning shots" fired by US ships at Iranian boats, inspecting the US ships under customary international laws, must be considered an infringement on Iran's rights. This technically warrants a legal backlash in the form of the Iranians temporary suspending the US warships' right of passage. Again, the US could be technically prosecuted by Iran in international forums for conducting questionable activities while in Iranian territorial waters.

And so it goes...the lies keep coming and the American public laps them up, applauds new rounds of UN Security Council sanctions, and seemingly never pauses to wonder, "Wait, why do I believe them this time around?"


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