The End of Dissent?
A recent congressional resolution
on Iran underscores the War Party's lock on the foreign policy
by Justin Raimondo
www.antiwar.com, June 22, 2007
Congress recently passed a resolution
calling on the UN to bring charges of "genocide" against
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Now, I hold no brief for
the Iranian ranter - whose jeremiads against the West are in the
category of Borat-like humor - but this seems like yet another
example of political pandering and congressional grandstanding
that bears little, if any, relationship to reality.
To begin with, the resolution is motivated
by a mistanslation of a speech given by Senor Ahmadinejad, in
which he cited the Ayatollah Khomeini and seemed to call for Israel
to be "wiped off the map." Yet, as this piece by Jonathan
Steele, and this comment by Farsi-speaker and Middle East expert
Prof. Juan Cole make very clear, that is not what the Iranian
President said, or intended to say. Ahmadinejad didn't say Israel
must be "wiped off the map," he said the current regime
in Tel Aviv will be "wiped off the page of time." It
was a call for "regime change" not genocide - but, never
Like most war propaganda, which is almost
never related to reality except in the most tenuous sense, the
point is not to tell the truth but to characterize the Enemy in
a particular way. With Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Washington
to ramp up the Lobby's ferocious campaign to get the US to attack
Iran - or at least credibly threaten to - the pro-Israel forces
on Capitol Hill were out in full force, herding their congressional
supporters into a massive display of obedience with a whopping
411-2 vote in the House.
The complete hypocrisy of our "antiwar"
Democratic congresscritters, who warble that we need to "end
the war" in Iraq, even as they whoop it up for war with Iran,
is so brazen that it doesn't require much comment. I'll leave
it to Mohammed ElBaradei, the IAEA chief, who bluntly told the
"I wake up every morning and see
100 Iraqi innocent civilians are dying. I have no brief other
than to make sure we don't go into another war or that we go crazy
into killing each other. You do not want to give [an] additional
argument to the new crazies who say 'let's go and bomb Iran.'
Asked who the 'new crazies' were, the IAEA chief refused to be
drawn, simply saying: 'Those who have extreme views and say the
only solution is to impose your will by force.'"
On Capitol Hill, when it comes to Iran,
the extremists are in charge, and they can rack up huge majorities.
While the resolution only goes as far as calling for more sanctions
on Iran, rebuking the EU for not signing on to the stricter sanctions
regime, it implies the imminence of an armed conflict when it
condemns Tehran for having
"Shown itself unwilling to use
its influence to support peaceful transformation in the region,
including by demonstrating its ability to strike United States
military forces and allies in the Middle East with missiles being
either incapable or unwilling to stop the movement of weapons
produced in Iran into Iraq and other countries in the region in
support of violent religious extremism."
By involving us in a region of the world
where national boundaries - drawn by long-departed colonial overlords
- are irrelevant and largely ignored in any case, the War Party
has ineluctably drawn us into a regional conflict which the US
Congress is even now fully ratifying, - or, at least, is preparing
to stand by while the President launches an attack. Remember how
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi infamously stripped out a provision
of the Iraq war funding bill that would have required Bush to
come to Congress before attacking Iran? Now we have this new resolution
- passed at precisely the moment when it looks like the Iranians
might agree to a proposal being floated by ElBaradei and the IAEA.
Coincidence? I hardly think so.
The War Party's main problem with the
Iranians has been the prospect that peace might break out at any
moment. It is well-known that the Iranians have communicated their
desire to negotiate this issue on several occasions, the most
notable being when, in May, 2003, they put everything on the table.
In a proposal [.pdf] transmitted to the US State Department via
the Swiss, Tehran offered to discuss its nuclear program and also
dangled the possibility of turning Hezbollah into a purely socio-political
body, while also cutting off aid to militant Palestinian groups
such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. What the Iranians wanted in return
was the lifting of sanctions, security guarantees, and the complete
normalization of relations.
The proposal was scotched by the Cheney
cabal, according to Colin Powell's former chief aide Flynt Leverett,
and - get this! - the Swiss ambassador was rebuked
for having the temerity to transmit it.
To add to the War Party's problems, a
strong Iranian reform movement has arisen, with demonstrated electoral
clout, which undercuts their caricature of Ahmadinejad as an Iranian
Hitler who heads up a totalitarian society determined to acquire
nukes. As President, Ahmadinejad wields almost no influence over
foreign and military policy, and no totalitarian dictator is ever
mocked as Ahmadinejad was by university students, who set off
firecrackers during a recent speech. Which brings us to another
point: the popularity of Western culture with Iranian young people
is almost as strong as their nationalistic sentiments - which
make these same pro-Western youngsters strongly supportive of
Iran's right to develop nuclear power.
Such subtleties are lost on this Congress,
however. The vote on this resolution - which is, let's face it,
pure war propaganda - dramatizes the grim reality we now face.
The only dissidents - Ron Paul, R-Texas, and Dennis Kucinich,
D-Ohio - represent, respectively, the far "right" and
far "left" wings of their parties. Both opposed the
Iraq war from the very beginning, have warned against the danger
of escalating it into a regional conflict involving Iran - and
are declared presidential candidates, currently polling in the
And so the great neoconservative foreign
policy consensus, which has been periodically proclaimed through
the years by various neocon triumphalists, has once again settled,
like a poisonous fog, over the political landscape. Back in the
1950s, you'll remember, it was "The end of ideology,"
and in the 1990s, just after the final death throes of the old
Soviet Union, it was "the end of history." Today, we
have The End of Dissent.
Dissent - against what? Against the bipartisan
consensus in favor of Empire, against the neoconservative foreign
policy program of perpetual war, against the rise of Napoleonic
versions of both "liberalism" and conservatism. On the
left, the "out now" anti-interventionism of Kucinich
has been marginalized by the three Democratic "majors"
- Hillary, Obama, and Edwards - who, all three of them, are just
as hawkish as any neocon when it comes to Iran. On the right,
the thoroughly neoconized, Rush Limbaugh-Sean Hannity- National
Review axis of pro-war dead-enders are determined to take
the GOP down with them, although it remains to be seen how many
party leaders and activists will take to this lemming-like behavior.
Ever since World War II, the neocons -
yes, they've been around since the Truman era - have been proclaiming
the "end of This" and the "end of That," and
what it means and has always meant is the termination of all debate
on the key question of republic versus empire. For them, discussion
begins once all agree that we are indeed an empire, and certainly
intend to remain one. Anyone who stands outside this proclaimed
"consensus" is, by definition, a kook, an "extremist,"
and not a "credible" candidate for anything other than
The great problem for the War Party, when
it comes to the home front, is that the "center" they
claim to represent doesn't support them or their war plans. The
overwhelming majority of the American people want out of Iraq,
and they aren't jumping on the "let's bomb Iran" bandwagon
that Norman Podhoretz wants to be leading. The two "extremists,"
Paul and Kucinich, are actually much closer to popular sentiment
on this question than the upholders of the supposedly "mainstream"
This irony underscores how the game is
rigged, not only electorally but also intellectually, in favor
of the War Party. By maintaining a firm grip on the levers of
power - the media as well as the two "major" political
parties - the pro-war elites impose their will on the pro-peace
majority. Yet the experience of the past four years, and the catastrophic
potential of a war with Iran, have woken up a considerable portion
of the population, including both "right" and "left"
war critics, who have begun to raise their voices in protest.
On the right, we have analysts such as Andrew Bacevich, as learned
as he is eloquent, whose critique of the neocons' foreign policy
hubris is rooted in clear-headed realism and emotion passionately
felt. On the progressive left, such commentators as Jim Lobe,
Matthew Yglesias, and Alexander Cockburn, to mention only a few,
have provided trenchant analyses of our current entanglements
that complement the Old Right American-interests-narrowly-defined
perspective of, say, the editors of The American Conservative.
The neocons - of the Weekly Standard
"right" and New Republic "left" varieties
- are desperately seeking to shore up a crumbling intellectual
consensus that was formerly in favor of all-out interventionism,
and now isn't so sure. The intellectuals, as usual, are behind
the general public when it comes to an idea whose time has come,
and should come. The politicians, however, are even further behind,
as the recent bout of congressional saber-rattling in Iran's direction
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