Into the Abyss: Israel and the West Prepare the Next War
- February 18, 2012
In the last few weeks the prospect of a war with Iran has begun to assume a terrifying inevitability. It is now clear that Western politicians, with the support of the mainstream media, are preparing public opinion for the military option, using the same techniques that preceded the Iraq war.
As in Iraq, the current propaganda offensive has two consistent objectives. Firstly, it is intended to make ‘pre-emptive’ or ‘preventive’ war appear to be the least bad option, by creating a sense of unbearable urgency in which Iran is presented as an existential threat that cannot be stopped by any other means.
In the second place, it is designed to make it appear that war has been forced upon our pacific democratic governments by the intractable aggression and fanaticism of the latest target du jour.
Both techniques were on display in an article in yesterday’s Guardian which described the convoluted logic that is supposedly leading the Obama administration towards war. According to the Guardian, Obama officials are now concluding that because Israel is determined to strike at Iran, the US will have no choice to join in. As always the US goes to war reluctantly, since
The White House has said repeatedly that all options are on the table, including the use of force to stop Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, but that for now the emphasis is firmly on diplomacy and sanctions. But long-held doubts among US officials about whether the Iranians can be enticed or cajoled into serious negotiations have been reinforced by recent events. “We don’t see a way forward,” said one official. “The record shows that there is nothing to work with.”
In fact, the US has many different forms of pressure that it could bring to bear if it wanted to stop Israel from attacking Iran, but it has never shown any willingness to use any of them. The idea that Iran is inherently incapable of ‘serious negotiations’ is the same kind of lie that was told about Saddam Hussein in the run up to the Iraq war.
The Guardian appears no more willing to challenge such narratives than it was in the past, with its assertion that “Iran’s increasingly belligerent moves such as the botched attempts, laid at Tehran’s door, to attack Israeli diplomats in Thailand, India and Georgia are compounding the sense that Iran is far from ready to negotiate”.
Iran is currently being subjected to sanctions, assassinations of its scientists and state officials, and bomb attacks carried out with the direct collusion of Western governments, and is surrounded by hostile states that are being armed to the teeth by the United States and its EU allies. In these circumstances, it is worth asking who is really the ‘belligerent’ party here. But the Guardian does not pose this question.
Nor does the Telegraph, in an interview with William Hague today, in which the foreign secretary warns that a nuclear-armed Iran risks a “nuclear Cold War”, that Britain would be ‘in range of Iranian nuclear weapons – or that nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists.’
The only thing missing from this is the 45 minute warning, but something like it will probably be produced when required. Though Hague admits that an attack on Iran would have “enormous downsides” and insists that ” We are not favouring the idea of anybody attacking Iran at the moment”, he does not rule out the possibility. According to the Telegraph:
Mr Hague also said that Britain was not taking part in any ‘secret war’ against Iran following the killings of several Iranian nuclear scientists in Tehran. He added: “It is not our way of dealing with this to have assassinations or to advocate military action. Although I do stress again, we are taking nothing off the table.”
We needn’t detain ourselves for too long with Hague’s disclaimers, but it is worth looking a little a more closely at the ‘downsides’ of military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Unlike the Osirak reactor in Iraq which Israel bombed in 1981, Iran’s nuclear facilities are widely dispersed across the country, including in Tehran itself, and many of them are located deep underground.
These facilities cannot be crippled or destroyed in a single strike. It is more likely that military operations will be protracted and continuous, involving the use of ‘bunker-busting’ weapons, neutron bombs, fuel-to-air explosives and even tactical nuclear weapons.
An analysis of the potential consequences of a war by the Oxford Research Group in 2006 predicted, as many analysts have, that U.S./Israeli strikes would be counterproductive:
Although an attack by either state could seriously damage Iran”s nuclear development potential, numerous responses would be possible making a protracted and highly unstable conflict virtually certain. Moreover, Iran would be expected to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty and engage in a nuclear weapons programme as rapidly as possible. This would lead to further military action against Iran, establishing a highly dangerous cycle of violence
Regarding casualties, the report calculated that
Military deaths in this first wave of attacks against Iran would be expected to be in the thousands, especially with attacks on air bases and Revolutionary Guard facilities. Civilian deaths would be in the many hundreds at least, particularly with the requirement to target technical support for the Iranian nuclear and missile infrastructure, with many of the factories being located in urban areas. If the war evolved into a wider conflict, primarily to pre-empt or counter Iranian responses, then casualties would eventually be much higher.
Indeed they would, especially since
any destruction of the containment structure could lead to serious problems of radioactive dispersal affecting not just the Iranian Gulf coast, but west Gulf seaboards in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. As well as the direct human effects, since these comprise the world”s most substantial concentration of oil production facilities, the consequences could be severe.
Some US officials have projected that an Israeli attack would provoke retaliation on Israel itself. In an analysis of the potential fallout of a war on Iran for the Truthout website last december, Richard Sale predicted that:
Iran and its allies in Lebanon would fire thousands upon thousands of scud missiles armed with high explosive (HE) warheads “at every Israeli population center down as far as Tel Aviv,” according to one former DoD intelligence official. A former US intelligence official with direct knowledge of Israel’s attack plans emphasized: “The Israelis have no defense against this. Israel has a massive disincentive against the use of any kind of nuclear weapon. Israel has only two population centers, and this attack would finish them.”
There is not the slightest indication that any of this matters to the governments that are now lurching towards a war that has little chance of succeeding even in its own terms, that has in fact no clear goals at all beyond the vague hope of ‘slowing down’ Iran’s nuclear programme and possibly provoking a popular backlash against the Iranian regime, and which will kill possibly tens of thousands of people.
The reckless stupidity and primitive bloodthirstiness of this enterprise is breathtaking, but it is not unprecedented. In 1915, the German socialist Rosa Luxemburg wrote The Junius pamphlet, one of the most impassioned, eloquent and brilliant indictments of war ever written, in which she wrote how
Mass slaughter has become the tiresome and monotonous business of the day and the end is no closer. Bourgeois statecraft is held fast in its own vise. The spirits summoned up can no longer be exorcised.
Luxemburg condemned the “hoarse cries of the vulture and the hyenas of the battlefield” and noted that
Violated, dishonored, wading in blood, dripping filth there stands bourgeois society. This is it [in reality]. Not all spic and span and moral, with pretense to culture, philosophy, ethics, order, peace, and the rule of law but the ravening beast, the witches” sabbath of anarchy, a plague to culture and humanity. Thus it reveals itself in its true, its naked form.
The present headlong rush to war belongs to the same savage tradition.
But Luxemburg’s pamphlet was written after the war had begun. The war with Iran has not yet taken place. And that means we still have a chance to prevent it, but for that to happen, the public needs to wake up from its trance – and it needs to do it soon.