While the day-to-day sideshow of the presidential primary and other sensational stories keep us distracted, the most important thing happening in the world today is scarcely getting any attention at all. The U.S. headlines remain dominated by stories of clownish candidates and their gaffes, birth-control controversies, pedophile football-coaches, celebrity deaths, and so on. In a sane country, every newspaper would be screaming the same question on Page One: “Will there be war with Iran?”
It might not feel like it, but we are practically on the brink of a conflict that could conceivably escalate into World War III. Something akin to the Cuban Missile Crisis is taking place behind the scenes of the great global power struggle and the agents involved are taking care to keep it as quiet as possible. Those interested in starting this war know that their situation becomes more complicated if the masses start paying attention, so the least we can do is make our awareness known.
Everybody ought to be gravely worried about this, but unfortunately people take most of their cues from news anchors and commentators, and none of them are projecting what I feel is an appropriate amount of concern. I will explain why I’m worried in the hopes that it will encourage others to express these concerns as well. This is not fear-mongering, as this is rational fear. Rational fear is what prevented nuclear war with the Soviet Union, and it’s the only thing that can stop us from a potentially disastrous war in the Middle East.
Regardless of your political persuasion, you can not deny that there are powerful organized interests who benefit financially from war. Military contractors such as those listed here have seen their budgets inflate wildly thanks to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now that those wars are dying down, could anyone honestly believe that these companies are prepared to see all of that extra revenue suddenly dissolve into thin air? The people who run these companies have all the incentive in the world to seek a justification for another war. It’s not that they’re evil—they’ve probably convinced themselves that Iran does pose a genuine threat and a war now is preferable to a war later. With billions of dollars on the line, you can will yourself into believing just about anything.
If we acknowledge that there are powerful interests who are actively trying to bring about war, the question then becomes what could stand in their way. The most obvious answer is public pressure, and after a decade of Afghanistan and Iraq the public is sick of war. The most recent CNN/ORC poll shows that regarding Iran 60% of Americans favor a diplomatic approach and only 17% would favor military force.
Compare that to the numbers in the lead-up to the Iraq war. In the aftermath of 9/11, Americans were far more supportive of military action, and virtually no effort was made to protest or lobby the government against it. Effort was expended to sell the American public on the idea of preemptive war in Iraq, and after a long period of widespread journalistic malfeasance (of which the most egregious offenses are recounted here) the war was launched with barely a word of public outcry.
Because that debacle is still fresh in the collective memory, the military contractors are barely even bothering with public opinion this time. That’s not to say they aren’t trying: just watch the major news-channels and notice that among the few stories in which Iran is mentioned, it’s almost always referred to as an imminent threat. Glen Greenwald wrote a piece last week drawing attention to how retired generals such as Barry McCaffrey have been posing as objective military analysts while at the same time participating in a Pentagon propaganda program. Greenwald reports that McCaffrey has been briefing NBC executives on the situation with Iran, basically telling them that war will almost certainly break out within 90 days and it will be Iran’s doing. The message they want planted in American minds is not that a war with Iran is desirable—they know they’ll never be able to accomplish that—but that it may be necessary.
Even if the majority of Americans are against the war, they can still safely launch one as long as the people believe they had no choice.
That means we must be prepared to be dragged into a war we don’t want, and there are two very easy ways this can be accomplished. First is to goad the Iranians into attacking one of our ships in the Persian Gulf in the hopes of provoking another Gulf of Tonkin incident (thankfully, Iran doesn’t seem anxious to take the bait). The second is to have Israel launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities and wait for Iran’s retaliation. I’m particularly worried about this second possibility, as Benjamin Netanyahu is about as hawkish as they come and he has a history of acting without U.S. approval.
Luckily for us, the last thing the Obama administration wants in the run-up to the re-election is to start an unpopular war with Iran, and this week he’s no doubt pressuring Netanyahu not to strike. I have a long history of criticizing the president, but one solid reason to vote for him in 2012 is that he—whether out of genuine moral conviction or pure political calculation—will resist starting another war, whereas Romney, Santorum, or Gingrich would do everything they could to facilitate one.
Yet if Netanyahu acts unilaterally by bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities and inviting a counter-attack by Iran, President Obama will have no choice but to honor the alliance with Israel and commit the U.S. military to the fight. Just consider what would happen if he refused and withheld military support from Israel. The right-wing, which has already been lambasting the president for being weak on Israel and soft on the Muslim world for three years, would come down full-force and Obama would be accused of nothing less than allowing a Second Holocaust. He’d be damned among conservatives for avoiding the war and he’d be damned among progressives for joining it (not to mention damned among everyone for the effect on gas prices), so his best hope is that it does not become an issue. But Netanyahu is no friend of Obama and neither are the military contractors. Handing him a political nightmare in an election year is just another incentive to start the war now.
And this is the point I want to conclude on: why now? Even if you believe that Iran is not a rational actor and would launch a suicidal nuclear attack on Israel if they had the capability, there is absolutely no credible person on the planet who says they have that capability now. Even the war-mongering General McCaffrey puts forward a figure of 36 months as the period of time it will take for Iran to develop nuclear weapons, though he inexplicably insists they intend to escalate towards war within 90 days. Even if you were a religious nut, why on earth would you start a war with your mortal enemy several years before you are capable of seriously harming them? An attack now would invite a counter-attack from the United States military that would destroy the Iranian government before they could even bruise Israel. The leaders of Iran might be crazy (and I don’t believe they are) but they’re definitely not that stupid. They rigged an election in 2009, and that requires at least two brain cells to accomplish.
The reasons why this war might start in 2012 are numerous. The withdrawal of our last combat troops from Iraq at the end of 2011 is one. The benefits of starting this conflict during an election year are another. But perhaps the most sinister is the fact that the year happens to be 2012. It’s no secret that many people with their hands on the levers of power in the world are fundamentalist Christians. Many see a nuclear conflict in the Middle East involving Israel as the spark that will bring about Armageddon, and what better year to get that started than the year the Mayan calendar ends and people are already anticipating an apocalypse? Prophecies have a tendency of fulfilling themselves, especially when very powerful people who believe the prophecies find themselves in a position to bring them to fruition.
A war with Iran will not be like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran is far more powerful and capable of putting up a fight. Dozens of catastrophic scenarios are possible if we strike. Other Muslim nations, their perceptions of a Holy War being waged against them reinforced by an unprovoked U.S.-Israeli assault on a fellow Muslim country might very well get involved. Pakistan, with whom our relations these past years have been tenuous at best, might cut all diplomatic ties with us and join the fight on Iran’s side and offer their nuclear support. Iran might already have other weapons of mass destruction such as chemical or biological in their arsenal as an insurance policy for war just waiting to be unleashed. Whatever happens, millions of innocent people will die or have their lives tragically altered forever. All so a few mega-wealthy corporations can maintain their profits.
I’m not sure we can stop this. Writing to our representatives and marching in the streets will probably not be enough to block this juggernaut, but we have to be aware of what’s going on. If we can’t prevent it, at least we can be prepared for it.