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Playing with fire: United States attack on Iran canard


Periodically, we are victimized by headlines that insist that the United States is about to attack Iran. The attack has been in preparation for a long time. Here's Seymour Hersh predicting the attack in 2005. Seymour Hersh reported again that it was about to go down in the New Yorker on April 17, 2006. There's another such story here from February 2007. Here's a story from March 29, 2007, that insists that an attack is imminent. And here's another, closer to he source of the "information" - Russian intelligence. The indefatigable Hersh was at it again in October of 2007, with the same arguments and rumors. And the Russians are back at it again too. Now, almost a year to the day after the last Russian-inspired Iran attack fiction, they have once again published "intelligence" about U.S. military moves that are supposedly preparatory to an attack on Iran.

Incredible as it may seem, there are still those who take these rumors seriously. Hersh has a perfect record as a journalist: he has been wrong every time, and he is wrong now. There was no US attack on Iran, and there won't be one in the near future. Likewise, the Russian intelligence is clearly disinformation.

In a better regulated world, a "journalist" like Hersh would be selling used cars by now or writing scripts for Star Gate episodes, professions more suited to a man of his protean imagination, so unfettered by reality. The Russian "intelligence" sources would be treated as what they are as well. Imagine if the little boy who cried "wolf" got people to come running every single time, though there was never any wolf!

But in our world, these fables are taken seriously, time and again, and they have real and dangerous effects. It is possible, even probable, that people who insisted on releasing the poorly written NIE Report on Iranian nuclear development, were motivated by Hersh's canards and believed an attack on Iran was really about to go down. The Iranians themselves take the Russian reports seriously, or at least they claim that they do, in order to drum up domestic solidarity and justify military preparations and repression. Apparently, the Russians do too, since several very alarming headlines 'assure' us "Attack Iran and you attack Russia". That assurance was supposedly given by President Putin to the Iranian government during his visit to Tehran. It is the same sort of 'assurance' that brought about the start of World War I.

The United States is always moving naval forces and troops around the Persian Gulf. It is always possible to point to the progress of this carrier group or that airborne division and claim that these are preparations for imminent war. Moreover, there is no question that under certain circumstances, the United States might one day attack Iran. That would not be very surprising. The founder of the Iranian revolution dubbed the United States "the Great Satan." The current President of Iran has declared that he wants to achieve a "world without America" and Iran has been attacking the US through its proxies since the 1980s. If Iran attacks a US base they could not expect that the United States would not retaliate. If they close the straits of Hormuz or test an atom bomb they could not expect that the United States would remain silent. However, everyone who understands the American system of government and studies the current political situation can understand that an attack on Iran could not be carried out without a clear provocation and at least some preparation of public opinion, as well as congressional approval.

The attack rumors serve the purposes of Iran and Russia well, and on many fronts. President Ahmadinejad can keep his people united around the threat of imminent American attack, and perhaps make them ignore the repression of women and dissidents, as well as the worsening economic situation in Iran. Iranian propaganda can use the bogus threats to portray the United States as evil war mongers. Each time such rumors appear, American spokespersons and leaders have to comment on them.

There is no good answer to the question, "Is the United States going to attack Iran?" If government representatives say "The United States will never attack Iran under any circumstances," that would be a carte blanche to Iran to do whatever it pleases. The U.S. is a democracy, and its leaders would be held to their word. On the other hand, if they respond that "no option is off the table," the Iranian propaganda machine and its supporters can (and do) insist that this proves that an attack is imminent and that American leaders are warmongers. Administration opponents in the United States find the invasion convenient too. Administration figures can be cast as "Darth Vader" or "Voldemort." The invasion bogeyman can be used to stymie almost any US move that is unfavorable to Iran. The Russians of course, are the major beneficiaries of the canards, which may be their most profitable export industry, because they use the invasion threat to discredit the United States and to draw their Middle East client states closer to them, seeking protection. Will the horrible day really come when Russia has to make good on its promise that "an attack on Iran is an attack on Russia?" If, for example, Iran mines the straits of Hormuz and closes them, and the US Navy attacks the Iranian navy, is that "attack on Iran" going to start World War III? It is grotesque that "liberal" analysts have become the chief purveyors and disseminators of the attack rumor stories, in the name of "pacifism."

Communism is gone, but Russia remains Russia. Not for nothing did President Putin once observe that his experience as a KGB intelligence officer serves him well in his current role as President of Russia. In the spring of 1967, the USSR, as it was called then, insisted that Israel had gathered forces around the Syrian border in preparation for an attack on Syria. The UN noted that there were no such troop concentrations. The Soviet ambassador to Israel refused an offer to go and see that there were no attack preparations or troop concentrations. The Russians have since admitted that they lied. They wanted to embarrass the United States and perhaps to draw their own Middle East allies closer to themselves. Their lie entrained a series of events that resulted in the Six Day War. This movie is starting the same way as that one, but the end could be a cataclysm far greater than the Six Day War.

Ami Isseroff

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Replies: 1 Comment

Mocking Seymour Hersh makes you look foolish. He's right much more often than not on a broad range of issues going back to My Lai. I'll bank on his credibility and integrity over the snotty author of this sloppy article any day of the week. Who the Hell are YOU and what have YOU accomplished? You are a non-entity who has done nothing to improve the world. You can barely write a coherent paragraph.

Posted by Thom Payne @ 04/26/2008 09:56 AM CST

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