"For the greatest enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived, and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic."
- President John F. Kennedy, Yale University Commencement Address, June 11, 1962
"Propaganda by its very nature is an enterprise for perverting the significance of events and of insinuating false intentions...The propagandist will not accuse the enemy of just any misdeed; he will accuse him of the very intention that he himself has and of trying to commit the very crime that he himself is about to commit. He who wants to provoke a war not only proclaims his own peaceful intentions but also accuses the other party of provocation."
- Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes, 1965
A report in The Times of London, with the headline "Israel steps up plan for air attacks on Iran", enumerates the various "options" and "military contingency plans" available to the Israeli military in order to "neutralise" Iran's "nuclear weapons programme." Journalist Christopher Walker writes that Israeli "[m]ilitary planners are studying" the possibility of "hitting Iranian missile plants...with the 'long arm' of its airforce or targeting foreign scientists at the facilities rather than the buildings themselves." He adds that "surgical air strikes" would be carried out by "advanced F-15I fighter planes."
The piece also quotes the Israeli Defense Minister as warning, "A country like Iran possessing such long range weaponry - a country that lacks stability, that is characterised by Islamic fundamentalism, by an extremist ideology that is striving to become a superpower in the Middle East - is very dangerous."
Another alarming article, this one in The Washington Times, begins this way:
Reports that Israel is preparing for pre-emptive air strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities and is now able to fire nuclear missiles from submarines were seen as reflecting deep anxiety in Israel for Tehran's nuclear program.In The New York Times, Hebrew University professor Martin van Creveld writes of the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran, explaining, "With the United States now in the midst of a hotly disputed election campaign," if the Israeli Prime Minister "wanted to act, the time to do so would be between now and November."
Israeli newspapers said officials appear to have leaked the reports in an attempt to focus the attention of the international community on the dangers of Iranian nuclear weapons development.
The first report is from December 9, 1997. The second from October 13, 2003. The third was published on August 21, 2004.
It is now August 2012. Another election cycle is nearing an end and with it as always comes the same tired fearmongering and war hysteria. Threats and predictions of an unprovoked, illegal Israeli assault on Iran are once again flooding the media with dire warnings of fabricated and meaningless - but sufficiently spooky - phrases such as Iran's supposedly looming "zone of immunity," which until recently was ominously dubbed the "point of no return." We've been through this charade for three decades with no end in sight.
Early this month, Israeli national security adviser Ephraim Halevy, who was once director of Mossad, was quoted as saying that if he were Iranian he "would be very fearful of the next 12 weeks." Meanwhile, Iranian diplomats continue to assert that the Islamic Republic has no intention of attacking Israel. "We will react if there is any provocative act from the other side," Mohammad Khazaee, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, told reporter Laura Rozen just a month ago. "We will not initiate any provocative steps."
Iran's defense doctrine has been reaffirmed at the highest levels of the U.S. intelligence community. Earlier this year, Defense Intelligence Agency chief Ronald Burgess told the Senate Armed Services Committee that his agency continues to assess that "Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict."
On the very same day that the editors of the New York Daily News took their cues from Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren to warn that "Tehran is on the verge of being able to produce a bomb," a spokesman for the White House National Security Council maintained that U.S. intelligence "continue[s] to assess that Iran is not on the verge of achieving a nuclear weapon."
Last week, reliable Netanyahu administration mouthpiece Barak Ravid reported in Ha'aretz that "[n]ew intelligence information obtained by Israel and four Western countries indicates that Iran has made greater progress on developing components for its nuclear weapons program than the West had previously realized." He also published an article claiming that "President Barack Obama recently received a new National Intelligence Estimate report on the Iranian nuclear program, which shares Israel's view that Iran has made surprising, significant progress toward military nuclear capability," adding that the alleged report contains "new and alarming intelligence information about military components of Iran's nuclear program."
Not only was Ravid's reporting - tactlessly and transparently planted by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak - full of evidence-free claims by the MEK and over-hyped falsehoods about a secret detonation chamber and atomic particles washed away from an Iranian military installation legally off-limits to IAEA inspectors that have long been debunked, its main scoop was immediately denied by the Obama administration. In response to Ravid's claims, Reuters reported a National Security Council spokesman as saying that "U.S. intelligence assessment of Iran's nuclear activities had not changed since intelligence officials delivered testimony to Congress on the issue earlier this year." Both the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Ronald Burgess have consistently assessed that Iran is not building nuclear weapons.
Essentially confirming suspicions that he was the source of Ravid's information, Ehud Barak told Israel Radio, "There probably really is such an American intelligence report...making its way around senior offices" in Washington that, "makes the Iranian issue even more urgent and (shows it is) less clear and certain that we will know everything in time about their steady progress toward military nuclear capability."
That's right: probably really.
Ehud Barak even resorted to totally inapplicable and inappropriate historical analogies to anonymously fear-monger about Iran. Utilizing the ultimate in Zionist emotional blackmail and hasbara, Barak evoked the threat of Nazi Germany: "What happened in the Rhine in 1936 will be child's play compared to what will happen with Iran," he declared.
Seemingly responding to former Mossad head Meir Dagan's January 2011 determination that Israel "should use military force only if it is attacked, or if it has 'a sword at its neck,'" Barak also pulled the phony, backed-into-a-corner, self-defense card: "The sword at our throat is a lot sharper than the sword at our throat before the Six-Day War," he told Ha'aretz.
Neither of these claims makes any sense. That Iran is not the industrialized, military powerhouse that Nazi Germany was, nor does it have any expansionist or genocidal goals, hardly merits attention. With regard to the Six-Day War, Barak is hoping his audience knows nothing of history. The Israeli attack on Egypt that began the war was not a preemptive act of self-defense, but rather an aggressive military action. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin even admitted in 1982, "In June 1967 we again had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him." He added, "Who knows if there would have been an attack against us? There is no proof of it."
Speaking to reporters on August 10, White House spokesman Jay Carney revealed that, with regard to U.S. intelligence on the Iranian nuclear energy program, "we have eyes, we have visibility into the program, and we would know if and when Iran made a -- what's called a 'breakout move' towards acquiring a weapon."
Furthermore, Carney bragged about his administration's deliberate imposition upon the Iranian people of "the most stringent sanctions ever imposed on any country," which he said are "designed to take advantage of what we believe remains to be a window of opportunity to persuade Iran through these sanctions and through diplomatic efforts to forego its nuclear weapons ambitions."
Window of opportunity. Zone of immunity. Point of no return. All options on the table. Credible military threat.
Such hype, based on dubious claims and false information, is nothing new when it comes to American and Israeli warmongering. For instance, a CBS News report from August 18, 2002 stated, "Israeli intelligence officials have gathered evidence that Iraq is speeding up efforts to produce biological and chemical weapons, said [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon aide Ranaan Gissin." The article quotes Gissin: "Any postponement of an attack on Iraq at this stage will serve no purpose. It will only give him (Saddam) more of an opportunity to accelerate his program of weapons of mass destruction."
Similarly, this past weekend, The New York Times reported that Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon called upon the P5+1 (the five nuclear-armed permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany) to "declare today that the talks [with Iran] have failed" and demand Iran cease all nuclear activity within a matter of "weeks." When Iran obviously does not comply, as such a demand is ludicrous and a direct abrogation of Iran's inalienable rights, Ayalon said "it will be clear that all options are on the table."
The threats of war come not only from politicians, but also - as it has before - from pundits and the press.
In a memorandum highlighting a particularly alarmist and dishonest speech delivered by Vice President Dick Cheney to the Veterans of Foreign Wars 103rd National Convention on August 26, 2002, neoconservative rainmaker Bill Kristol wrote, "The time for action grows near. Congressional leaders should seriously consider a resolution authorizing use of force when they return next week. Passing such a resolution as soon as possible would provide the president with maximum flexibility and an opportunity for tactical surprise, would strengthen his hand vis-a-vis our allies, and might embolden internal opposition in Iraq."
Nearly a decade later, a Weekly Standard opinion piece published July 2, 2012 and co-authored by Kristol declared, "Time is running out and the consequences of inaction for the United States, Israel, and the free world will only increase in the weeks and months ahead. It's time for Congress to seriously explore an Authorization of Military Force to halt Iran’s nuclear program."
The repetition of rhetoric advocating military violence in the form of initiating a "war of aggression" - long considered "the supreme international crime" - has never been limited only to neoconservative hawks. For example, the warmongering of so-called "liberal" Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen is virtually indistinguishable from that of Kristol.
In February 2003, following Colin Powell's dazzling display of lies before the United Nations Security Council, Cohen wrote that Iraq "without a doubt" maintained an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Such was Cohen's certainty that he added, "Only a fool -- or possibly a Frenchman -- could conclude otherwise."
This year, Cohen has been at it again, this time arguing that Israel has good reason to attack Iran, claiming that, while "the ultimate remedy is Iranian regime change," which Cohen insists is "not as improbable as it sounds," in the meantime, an Israeli assault "could accomplish quite a lot." His reasoning is based on a total misunderstanding of historical events, wholesale contempt for international law, blind acceptance of selective Israeli and American allegations, and willfully ignoring consistently reaffirmed assessments of U.S. intelligence and IAEA inspections.
Inexplicably, this man still has a job.
As it was, so it is again. An incumbent president is in full campaign mode and a challenger is pledging eternal fealty to Israeli militarism and Zionist expansionism. Such was 2004, so it is again. And through it all, the Israeli government, despite making its preferences clear, feigns neutrality.
In a September 7, 2004 interview with The Jerusalem Post, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared, "I don't interfere in elections. I never interfere in elections in other countries, and I hope that they will never interfere here either. I have no need to interfere and it is forbidden to interfere." He added, "It is no secret that the US is Israel's devoted friend. There is a traditional friendship between the US and Israel. It is mutual."
In a letter to The New York Times published on April 12, 2012, Israeli ambassador Michael Oren wrote, "Israel does not interfere in internal political affairs of the United States...and greatly values the wide bipartisan support it enjoys in America."
And yet Oren continues to insist that the Israeli clock "is ticking faster" and claims "Israel, not the United States, is threatened almost weekly, if not daily, with annihilation by Iranian leaders." He declares diplomacy dead and suggests "that truly crippling sanctions together with a credible military threat - and that I stress, that's a threat; not that we just say that it's credible, the folks in Tehran have to believe us when we say that - may still deter them. But we also have to be prepared, as President Obama has said, to keep all options on the table, including a military option."
Oren's explicit call for not only collective punishment but a "credible military threat" - echoing the demands of his boss Netanyahu - is in fact a direct violation of the Chapter 1, Article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter which declares, "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations."
Nevertheless, the threats and speculations continue unabated with Israel always residing safely within its own zone of impunity. Though highly-credentialed foreign policy experts, in addition to many military and defense officials, warn against the wisdom of an Israeli attack, rarely - if ever - does anyone explain that such action would unequivocally constitute a war crime. This same scenario repeats year after year.
In his 1997 book Open Secrets: Israeli Foreign and Nuclear Policies, Holocaust survivor and Israeli professor Israel Shahak wrote,
Since the spring of 1992, public opinion in Israel is being prepared for the prospect of a war with Iran, to be fought to bring about Iran’s total military and political defeat. In one version, Israel would attack Iran alone, in another it would 'persuade' the West to do the job. The indoctrination campaign to this effect is gaining in intensity. It is accompanied by what could be called semi-official horror scenarios purporting to detail what Iran could do to Israel, the West and the entire world when it acquires nuclear weapons as it is expected to a few years hence. (p.54)Shahak appears to be referencing a The Washington Post report from June 15, 1992 which quoted Israeli Major General Herzl Budinger as declaring that unless "Iran's intensive effort to develop atomic weapons is not 'disrupted,'" it would "become a nuclear power by the end of the decade." In order to avoid this outcome, Budinger insisted on "the greatest disruption possible, whether military or political," either in the form of "international political action" or even "aggressive action, if needed."
Later that year, a November 30, 1992 article in The New York Times revealed that officials in the George H.W. Bush administration were frustrated with Israel "for fanning the recent alarm by portraying Iran as the most dangerous threat to both the region's and Israel's security," when such a threat didn't exist.
We've been seeing exactly this situation play out with increasing frequency. Last summer, Ha'aretz reporter Ari Shavit, this regarding the constant Israeli "threat of a military attack against Iran," wrote:
This threat is crucial for scaring the Iranians and for goading on the Americans and the Europeans. It is also crucial for spurring on the Chinese and the Russians. Israel must not behave like an insane country. Rather, it must create the fear that if it is pushed into a corner it will behave insanely. To ensure that Israel is not forced to bomb Iran, it must maintain the impression that it is about to bomb Iran.Yet the Iranian government isn't falling for the bluff, despite the fact that, with inhumane sanctions, the murders of Iranian civilians, drone surveillance, covert operations, support for Iranian terrorist groups, and continuing cyberwar, the United States and Israel are already violating Iranian sovereignty and imposing lethal violence and forced deprivation on the Iranian people and their country.
But even an air strike, let alone a full-scale war, won't happen. Probably really.
Aboard Air Force One last week, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that "the President remains committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and that we are leading an international effort to -- yes, something exciting happened in soccer. Sorry, excuse me, now I'm distracted."
Carney had the right idea. We should all be so distracted.