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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lies about Iran and Najaf Revealed; Peeling the Neocon Onion

Iran has been framed in the Media as being responsible for the terrorism in Iraq. In my last post I discussed the delivery of propaganda, citing articles where anti-Iranian bias distorted the reality, or where the official explanation offered by Iraqi dominated reality, in the case of Najaf. [For more details on that event, refer to a section on Najaf with links below.]

The stories I cited in my last post were just some in a stream of lies and distortions spewed by the Mainstream Media. My second-to-last post provided a literal translation of Prime Minister Ahmadinejad's "wipe Israel off the map," which was not only inaccurate as framed in the Mainstream, but misleading. Whatever statement attributed to him refers to a distortion of what Ayatollah Khomeni said years ago, something far less belligerent: "to remove the government in Jerusalem."

The Media, long the White House puppy dog on national security matters, disseminated the falsehoods. The Executive and the press have a tight, and mutually beneficial relationship. As the Libby trial is now showing, Media acts as a unfiltered conduit through which propaganda can been delivered, in that case the revelation that Valerie Plame was a covert agent. In return for their service, Media figureheads retain access to Washington insiders, confidential information, or whatever other scraps might fall from their master's table.

In its quest for greater power, the White House has sought to control the Media environment. Antiwar viewpoints were suppressed in the mainstream during the run-up to Iraq. Only recently has the MSM presented the antiwar view, long after a majority of Americans have turned on the war. Some networks have found ratings zoom for antiwar commentators, and thus a commerical impetus to cover the antiwar perspective was born.

Without any ethical restaints on media giants, the neoconservative monopoly on Media will continue. The neocon school will continue to exert political influence far surpassing its size, and has the President's ear. The recommendations from a retired general and neocon strategist did more to shape Iraq War policy than the much-heralded Iraq Study Group.

The Media has an obligation to serve the public interest. And the democraphic realities have changed; media must absorb those changes.

The public majority--the lowly consumer--may in fact know better than the corporate elite, or have more common sense, or see more accurately the end result of the occupation. If average people are better capable of seeing the future results of our policy than the elite controlling our media, an agenda is afoot.

This blog confronts the viability of Global War on Terror by providing clear image examples in the military and geopolitical arenas, where Bush's crowning achievement faces stalled or impossible goals. Congress at this point seems unwilling or unable to fully limit the President's authority, or cut spending as is their right.

The limitations are reflected in an political leadership which is increasingly isolated from the real-world consequences of its foreign policy failures. Official explanations and positions more and more appear to be based on unsubstantiated or unjustified rhetoric only one place removed from outright propaganda.

The war policies of our government are failing to stop the rise of radical Islamic fundamentalism, deemed the terror war's enemy. The failure to manage Iraq has become increasingly apparent in the Media, through which the neocons and US government are now trying to make a case for war with Iran.

Iran Follow Up

Liberal Oasis on February 2nd referred to the case for war in Iran being made by the Administration. As a matter of fact the post cites an interview with the Iranian ambassador to Iraq which I included on my last post. The media trail concerns an interview of Department of State official, and ends in an "amateur effort to set up Iran."

I was pleased to see the anti-Iranian distortion revealed by the blogger at Liberal Oasis.

He quotes Undersecretary of State Burns:
"You saw an interview, an extraordinary interview, when the ambassador of Iran in Iraq admitted that there are Iranian security operatives on the soil."

Liberal Oasis then writes:

"Here's the 'extraordinary' admission:

[Ambassador] Qumi also acknowledged, for the first time, that two Iranians seized and later released by American forces last month were security officials, as the United States had claimed. But he said that they were engaged in legitimate discussions with the Iraqi government and should not have been detained.

Two weeks earlier, Laura Rozen already reported the same in the National Journal, sourced to US officials:

'Some [US] officials reportedly have doubts about the precise nature of the evidence indicating Iranian involvement in Iraq.
For instance, after a highly publicized U.S. military raid on December 21 at the compound of Iraqi Shiite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, U.S. forces detained several Iranians who were meeting there. All of them were ultimately released and were returned to Iran, partly at the behest of the Iraqi government, which said it had invited the Iranians.' [emphasis added]

See the entry on Liberal Oasis here.

I am apparently not the only one whom the stream of half-truth and innuendo has failed to impress. Still, the Media's anti-Iranian position continues to work as an echo chamber for Bush's bellicosity. The message on Iran appears increasingly propagandistic, or propaganda disguised as news.

For more on the illegitimacy of anti-Iranian spin, see the McClatchy article "Justifications for attacking Iran on shaky ground" by Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel.

As I said in my last post, hard propaganda is inherently unconvincing. After Iraq, sensitivities to the veracity of the Administration's claims have been heightened. "Calling wolf", Bush and supporters of military action have been wrong before.

Whatever WMD threat Iran poses has been diluted by the torrent of false accusations levelled at Iraq and the obvious failure to find weapons there.

Bush fans like the "told you so" rationalization. To them, Bush has been prescient about warning of the threat posed by terrorism, and the invasion of Iraq serves the purpose of preempting a future threat to the United States.

Yet the majority of Americans can't help but assume assumptions about the threat posed by Iran are contrived.

Softer propaganda can be far more useful in playing on the emotional and psychological dimensions of fear and mistrust. The Administration paints Iran as a major threat in order to play on the general mistrust of the US population towards the Middle East.

Rather than isolate a specific threat scenario, or a particular issue, the Administration is seeking to stroke fear and mistrust.

More important than the message is the delivery method and the sheer number of messages. Automobile manufacturers deploy the same approach in their advertizing, called branding. By forming enough impressions of their brand in the brain of potential buyers, people over time become become familiar with a specific brand, and are thus more likely to buy it.

Apparently the approach to influencing purchase decisions is purely quantitative. Apparently people don't choose one car brand over another based on specific differences; rather, people are inclined to buy one more than another simply because more impressions of one particular brand have been made than another.

On Iran, Bush and the war-sellers can succeed simply by keeping Americans in the dark, where they can play on their fears. Copious repitition of anti-Iranian rhetoric leads Americans to subconsciously begin to fear the country.

The general American apathy, combined with a lack of knowledge and understanding about Iran, makes fertile ground for propaganda.

Controlling all dimensions of the battlefield and Media landscape (positive coverage of the battle for our side) has become standard operating procedure for the US military. It's been US policy to seize on a lack of knowledge, confusion, or a void, to spin rhetoric favorable to us and our allies; it's been said the truth is often the first casualty of war. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in Najaf, Iraq, where a battlefield became a spin zone.

Najaf Redux

I gave the example of Najaf as a prime example of distortion. The Iraqi government clearly didn't know what had happened, yet the US mainstream press parroted whatever they were told. As more and more details were revealed of what had actually transpired, Iraqi officials scrambled to retell or resequence events.

The end result was that the American people would not learn what had happened to the Shia worshippers slaughtered in Najaf.

The Najaf incident was a troubling example of distortion in the Media. The US Media has apparently become willing to accept without reservation whatever some provincial governor or military official might say. Clearly the Iraqis in control behind the scenes--Muqtada al-Sadr and his bunch--are sensitive to the media messaging opportunities that might arise, as was apparent in Najaf.

The US may have been duped into resolving an internal squabble in Najaf between Muqtada al-Sadr and some local tribesmen and members of an obscure cult, or so we were told. In the end hundreds were killed, including men, women, and children indiscriminately mowed down by US air power.

Whatever the justification for the use of force by "Allied" forces, it is clear that blind loyalty makes the US vulnerable to those in the Iraqi government who'd use us to further their own ends. How are US forces to know that their targets are in fact the terrorists our Iraqi allies tell us they are? Tom Lasseter writes a good article on this issue for McClatchy.

Najaf Links

Chris Floyd's most recent piece on Najaf can be found on truthout.org.

Mike Whitney has a description of some of the many inconsistencies in reports covering the battle here.

Al Jazeera's write up is here, and Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily write an article on Najaf here.

Finally, Patrick Cockburn, who wrote on the Najaf incident for The Independent, was interviewed on Democracy Now.

As these highly qualified reporters write, the story is almost assuredly false and constructed simply to glaze over what really happened. Where governments have an interest in keeping mistakes hidden, there is usually a massive amount of distortion.

The exposure of successive truths peels apart the official narrative like the layers of an onion. The truth lies at the heart, and is available only to those willing to learn from media sources outside the Mainstream. Most people, unfortunately, possess neither the time nor interest in following up, and in so doing perpetuate the Media's power by failing to question what they are told.

Neocon Strategy

Goering would construct his case for war thusly: Where innocence cannot be fully established, plant the seed of doubt or confusion as to the intentions of the "enemy". Thus when smarter people speak out, using logic to appeal to people's common sense, they appear soft and weak against the threat. In the public arena, emotion trumps logic, and by planting the seeds of mistrust, the challenge posed by the logical case against the war can be overcome.

I've talked in the past about a Nazi-Neocon connection. Neoconservatism was attributed to University of Chicago professor Leo Strauss (a discussion of Strauss' philosophies can be found here). Jewish, Strauss held that democracies must prevail themselves of any means available--including lying--in order to stop the rise of anti-democratic governments like that of Hitler.

Straussian theory influenced neocons like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, who slapped the tyrant label on Saddam. Bush and others and used the late dictator's propensity to do evil as reason to do away with him, essentially by overstating the threat.

While Strauss may have provided the reasons for democracies to act, support for Zionism has made a stronger impression on the neocon camp. Saddam's antics provided intellectual justifications for the Iraq War, on the Straussian level, while loyalty to Israel provided the more practical rationalization for why the US should get involved.

Rather than see Israel as an ally of the US, neocons see the interests of Israel and the US intertwined; what is good for Israel is good for the US, and vice-versa. So the affinity of the neocons towards Israel and more specifically, the Israeli Right, lead them to embrace militarism as a necessary evil.

The defense of Israel is a top priority to neocon sympathizers. Regime change was achieved in Iraq; destabilization of Syria and Iran successfully completes a broader strategy outlined in Clean Break by David Wurmser.

Saddam paid suicide bombers who'd struck at Israelis. Israel has long been sensitive to the prospect of terrorism orchestrated by Muslim nations. Plus, the American populace believes in a Iraq-based connection to 9/11, so attacking to stop support for terror actually sounded quite reasonable--as Iran may to some today for largely the same reason.

Much of the neocon rhetoric innundating the White House now revolves around the threat posed by Iran's sponsorship of terror. In the neocons hallmark Clean Break doctrine, Iraq is targetted alongside Iran.

While Iran must bear some accountability for their support of terror, invasion and regime change simply aren't possible. The geopolitical and military limits have been imposed. Even with the inordinate influence of the Israeli lobby on the Presidential decision-making process and Congressional consensus can't sell a war. So, neocon plans have thus endorsed the principle of destabilization of its enemies where regime change isn't possible.

Prolonging the occupation of Iraq is in the best interests of neocons who embrace Israel's enemies as our own. Extending the war to Iran--Israel's undisputed arch-rival--would be a victory for those who believe military action benefits both the US and Israel.

Judging by Iraq, their base result has been accomplished: Saddam--at best a marginal sponsor of terror--has been removed. Divide and conquer appears to have successfully prevented Shia and Sunni from unifying, where they might pose a threat to Israel.
However, the occupation cannot drag on indefinitely, no matter how beneficial a US presence in the Middle East might be. In trying to eliminate its enemies, Israel and the neo-cons have succeeded, but perhaps only temporarily. The prospect of an even stronger threat to Israel arising from the remnants of Iraq may be inevitable as long as the underlying hatred of Israel--based largely on Israel's treatment of indigenous Palestinians--endures.

No outside occupier is capable of preventing the rise of hatred of Israel, at best it can be suspended, unless meaningful change on Israeli-Palestinian issues can be achieved.

While destabilization may appear to be working, the occupation cannot go on. The American military cannot sustain the occupation.
Benefit to the security of Israel may in the long term produce the exact opposite affect, organizing and converting into State policies institutionalized hatred for Israel. Once American troops are gone, Israel will once alone find itself alone, surrounded by Muslims eager to exact revenge upon the infidel and his allies.

Zionism Unspun

The Media does have an obligation to inform and intercede where logic should reign over emotion. But it hasn't, for a number of reasons, chief among them neo-conservative domination of the clique of owners, editors, and publishers of the Mainstream Media, who consider themselves extremely sympathetic to the rightwing Israeli position known as Zionism.

Often owners, editors, and publishers of Mainstream Media companies support a Zionistic perspective, which endorses the primacy of military domination and territorial seizure in the name of a greater Jewish state.

Print and TV Media serve the interests of the elite, many of whom control Media and publishing world. Many of these magnates and money men are sympathizers to the neocon cause, and want a case made against the enemies of Israel, whom they support unconditionally.

Zionism has become a strategy of colonial expansion to the East and North of Israel. The strategy is focused on destabilizing any nations which are opposed to Israeli strategic domination over Palestine and Lebanon.

One hallmark of Zionism is the perception that Israel is under the constant threat of destruction. This concept has ostensibly been repeated in Israel's many wars with its neighbors. Unfortunately for Israel's security, the attitude of fear and mistrust has led to military aggression. And in a cycle of violence, the victims of Israel's colonialist policies tend to turn to violence of an assymetrical nature: terrorism, because they collectively lack sufficient military force to inhibit Israel.

One of the best ways to view the crisis in the Middle East is a continual escalation of mistrust, which builds ever more fear, and leads to the self-destructive impulse of preemption--a lashing out at whomever Israel believes will attack. And whatever military action Israel does take, it simply seeds more violence towards itself, which can only encourage more retaliation/preemption by Israel.

Without the ability to forgive, both sides find themselves less and less able to control the impulses of fear and violence which shatter whatever calm Israel's military superiority might engender.

Israeli Nuclear Position

Perhaps the best example of a practical strategy to limit this cycle is the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction. MAD essentially turns any violence into a worst case scenario. One side knows that the consequences of starting violence are so catastrophic, and with massive retaliation a certainty does not attack.

The nuclear war scenarios are familiar to Americans who lived through the Cold War and found themselves wondering if the world were about to be destroy in a massive nuclear holocaust. Obviously, Mutual Assured Destruction never occurred, so it did in fact succeed as a deterrent strategy for decades.

Israel has the bomb, perhaps 200 or more of them. The key contention is that Iran will also get the bomb and use it to destroy Israel, claiming that the stated intent of Iranian President Ahmadinejad is to wipe Israel off the map, when in fact he said nothing like that.

Presuming that Iran will attack means that Israel must be in a position to counterattack. The size of their arsenal indicates that they could achieve so overwhelming a strike as to more or less destroy Iran.

Now if Israel has sufficient weapons and the capacity to deliver them, the nation has no need to fear an attack, assuming it is one directed by the nation of Iran, and not some terrorist group given the weapon by Iran. The latter scenario clearly disrupts the strategy of MAD, up to a point, because for MAD to work, one side needs to know where the nuclear attack originated.

In actuality, Israel would strike at Teheran and Damascus regardless of whether or not those nations were directly involved. This is nuclear blackmail--should Syria or Iran fail to control ANY potential users of nukes against Israel, those nations would pay the price. So in some ways MAD works, but not in the traditional definition, as Syria and Iran appear to lack the capacity to strike back.

I found an excellent pair of posts on Israel's nuclear policy at holocaustnow.blogspot.com, with the preceding link going to the second of the two entries on M.A.D. R.I.P..

Alternatives to the Present Course

Many Zionist sympathizers see the continuation of Iraq as the accomplishment of strategic value to Israel. While the war may be waged with less and less results for the US, the status quo is seen as a way to divert negative attention from Israel, who has in the course of the years since the Iraqi invasion, launched a war, decimated Gaza, and settled into the West Bank.

Through cultural ties and a heavy dose of lobbying through AIPAC, there is no disputing US and Israel have a special relationship. Yet the interests of the two nations at some point divurge. Representing the best interests of the United States will at some point require putting Israeli interests beneath ours, where they belong: in the inner tier of our most trusted allies.

Selfishness can sometimes be a good thing. In our bilateral relationship, the US has failed to take advantage of its leverage with Israel. Bush didn't call Israeli Prime Minister Olmert for weeks into the Lebanon War; Condi Rice's shuttle diplomacy only started late into the exchange of hostilities.

Unlike Israel, the US has a wide and vulnerable global profile, not to mention the status of a superpower with which it can wield tremedous influence. Failing to restrict Israeli aggression has damaged US credibility and exposed us to far-reaching repercussions.

The US has done little to implement any plan for peace. Reconciliation between Israel and its neighbors helps American self-interest if opposition to the US in Iraq--both militarily and otherwise--is based on hatred of Israel.

The Bush Administration has failed to use US influence to moderate Israeli policies in West Bank and Gaza. Israeli's conduct in the West Bank continues to generate broad hostility against the US throughout the Islamic world.

The failure to exert restraint over Israel has made military confrontation with Israel's enemies more likely. More war will drastically curtail US efforts to achieve victory as defined in the War on Terror.

Rather than let Israel do as she pleases, the US needs to make a case for peace. Bush, unfortunately, seeks no alternative to open-ended conflict, despite his pronouncements. The war will drag on until Congress ends it or Bush's successor is willing to step away from the influence of the neocons and right-wing Zionists who seek to use war to further a narrow agenda.

If the US chooses not to apply any pressure to Israel, the consequences are created by choice. Before the US can lead others towards peace, it must be willing to be engage peace and not persist in war. And the real long-term outcome of military aggression may to create ever more and ever stronger opposition to Israel and the US.



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