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Getting fooled again?
The coming conflict with Iran

By George A. Ricker

A historian of some note, the late Will Durant, once wrote, “It may be true that ‘you can't fool all the people all the time,’ but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country.”

I find myself recalling those words as I listen to the Bush Administration’s efforts to stoke the fires one more time in the run up to a conflict with Iran. The pretext for the conflict is all too familiar. The Iranians sponsor terrorism. The Iranians are busily creating nuclear weapons. The Iranians are a threat to (some of) their neighbors. The Iranians brutalize their own people. The Iranians are ruled by an “islamo-fascist” regime that is inimical to the values we in the West hold so dear. And most recently, the Iranians are supporting Shia insurgents inside Iraq and, thus, sabotaging our efforts to stabilize the situation.

If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because the script comes straight out of the Neocon/Bush play book. We heard similar rhetoric as we were prepared for war with Iraq. Of course, it turned out that (a) Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction—a point every commission appointed by Bush himself has had to concede; (b) Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and had no real ties to the Al-Quaeda terror network; (c) Iraq had no capacity to attack anyone at the time of the U.S. invasion; (d) much of the brutalization of the Iraqi people that occurred under Saddam Hussein’s regime happened while Washington considered him and his country an ally; and (e) though he was often compared to Hitler, the truth is Saddam was in a well-constructed box from which he had no ability to threaten either the United States or its allies.

That’s not to say Hussein was not a brutal dictator. Clearly, he was. It is to say the reasons offered for invading Iraq were specious. We were already controlling Hussein’s ability to have any influence on world affairs. And if it was desirable to remove him from office, there were other ways to do that without launching an invasion of a sovereign state that was a violation of the international rule of law as well as our own constitution.

There are other similarities as well. Then, as now, the U.S. government claimed to prefer a diplomatic solution to the problems posed by the regime in question. Then, as now, the bellicose rhetoric emanating from Washington created an atmosphere that virtually guaranteed any negotiations were doomed to failure. Then, as now, our government insisted there was no room for any accommodation and only total capitulation could avoid the “serious consequences” we threatened with virtually every new comment.

Nothing seems more likely to induce the government of Iran to seek to either create or otherwise obtain nuclear weapons than the intransigent hostility emanating from the Bush White House. Iran needs only consider the treatment given its fellows in the so-called “axis of evil.” Iraq, which had no nukes, got invaded. North Korea, which does, gets lectured. Even though the regime in North Korea is easily the equal of Hussein’s at his worst in terms of human rights violations, there are no plans to invade that sovereign nation.

Of course, there are important differences. North Korea has no oil. North Korea poses no threat to Israel—only to South Korea and, possibly, Japan. And North Korea has a neighbor, China, who is an increasingly important manufacturing base for U.S. corporations and would not take kindly to such military intervention on its doorstep.

With the U.S. military’s personnel resources already stretched to the breaking point, an actual invasion of Iran seems unlikely—for now. What seems most likely is the use of air strikes and bombardment, presumably at locations in Iran judged most likely—by the U.S. government—to be involved in the production or the preparation of nuclear weapons.

Given the demonstrated talent of the Bush administration for cherry-picking intelligence to find the data that supports whatever action it wants to take and ignoring any that suggests otherwise, the attacks will be rationalized as essential to the preservation/protection of U.S. interests in the region. Whether that rationalization will have any more validity than the ones used to justify the invasion of Iraq seems unlikely at best.

Whether the American people will buy it remains to be seen. Most Americans want to believe their government is being honest with them. However, the Bush administration’s shredding of the few scraps of credibility it had left make it likely any action taken against Iran will face a much more skeptical audience than the attack on Iraq.

Meanwhile, I keep remembering the lyric of a rock song from years back and hoping, with The Who, that “we don’t get fooled again.”

©2007 by George A. Ricker

* A shorter version of this piece ran as a guest column in Florida Today on February 3, 2007.

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