May 15, 2006

Propaganda of Fear: Another War for Israel, Oil and Partisan Politics?

Rodrigue Tremblay 



"History shows that ... (people) can be deflected from their natural tendencies by artful propaganda, bogus crises, or other political trickery."

Robert Higgs


"The enormous gap between what US leaders do...and what Americans think their leaders are doing is one of the great propaganda accomplishments..."

Michael Parenti


The simmering conflict with Iran offers a good example of how a crisis can be fabricated from scratch through the always potent propaganda tool of fear. Because Iran wants what the U. S., Russia, China, France, Great Britain, India, Pakistan, Israel and many other countries have, i.e. the capability of enriching uranium as a means of generating energy, it is being singled out as a deadly menace to humanity, dangerous enough to warrant launching a preventive war of aggression, possibly a nuclear one, against it. Paradoxically, as recently as last April, the United Nations Security Council reaffirmed Iran's right to develop nuclear energy, in conformity with the Non Proliferation Treaty: "The Security Council reaffirms its commitment to the Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and recalls the right of States Party, in conformity with articles I and II of that Treaty, to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination."


Iran has denied that its nuclear program has any military purpose. In any case, why shouldn't Iran have nuclear technology, or even nuclear bombs for that matter, when countries such as Pakistan, India, Israel and even Brazil have them? On top of that, international nuclear experts say that even if Iran wanted to produce nuclear warheads, it would need 5 to 10 years to do it. So, why is the Bush-Cheney administration in a rush and a frenzy to go to war, when obviously Iran is no immediate threat to the United States?


U. S. hypocrisy on this score is worth noting: The Bush-Cheney administration claims that Iran's nuclear program for energy, if it were oriented toward nuclear weapons, could be in violation of international law and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. What is not said is the fact that the American administration itself just entered into a nuclear agreement with India, which is in violation of the same treaty. No country is supposed to share nuclear technology with other nations when such technology can be used for military purposes, even more so if they are not part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In the past, the U. S. also turned down a proposition for a nuclear-free Middle East because it wants Israel to retain its nuclear monopoly in the region. In a similar situation concerning North Korea, the Bush administration has relied on diplomacy, not on war. These contradictions do not escape the attention of people in Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, etc., who see, in these positions, an example of America's double standards, if not of double-talking.


The war fever being created in the U. S. is an illustration of how the tool of propaganda of fear  works. —First, it consists in demonizing and slandering a potential enemy through an intensive propaganda campaign of exaggerations and misinformation designed to persuade people that a given country is a potential menace to other countries. —Secondly, through repeated assertions of exaggerated danger and the presentation of distorted facts in the media, it is possible to reach the goal of instilling fear in people's minds, while concealing the real reasons why this is done. —Then, when public opinion has been whipped into a frenzy and people are frightened enough to support a war, politicians can pretend that they are 'forced' by necessity to violate international law and embark upon unilateral military acts of aggression to destroy the targeted enemy.


Just as with the on-going disastrous neocon-inspired Iraq War, which was initiated after an organized campaign of manipulation and deception, the current push to war against Iran is spear-headed in the U. S. by the same militant and hawkish Israel Lobby, and by similar neocon organizations, such as the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs [JINSA], and by their spokesmen in the media and within the U. S. government. The same scenario is being repeated a second time: Just as the Sharon government did for the Iraq war, the Israeli government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is pushing hard on the Bush-Cheney administration to launch an aerial bombing campaign against Iran.To answer this call, the U. S. government is currently doing its utmost to obtain a U.N. Chapter 7 resolution that would leave the door open to military action and the implementation of the neocon policy of regime change in Iran.


For his part, President George W. Bush has repeated many times that his top rationale for a possible U.S. military attack on Iran is to "pre-emptively" protect Israel. Last March 20 (2006), for example, he declared in a speech in Cleveland: "I made it clear, and I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally Israel."


A good indication that Israel plays an important role in the aggressive U. S. policy toward Iran is revealed in the Bush-Cheney administration's National Security Strategy document of March 16, 2006. There, in black and white, it is clearly stated that the nuclear issue with Iran is a pretext to pressure Iran on other issues. It says that, while the nuclear issue is important, "...the United States has broader concerns regarding Iran. The Iranian regime sponsors terrorism; threatens Israel; seeks to thwart Middle East peace; disrupts democracy in Iraq; and denies the aspirations of its people for freedom. The nuclear issue and our other concerns can ultimately be resolved only if the Iranian regime makes the strategic decision to change these policies, open up its political system, and afford freedom to its people. This is the ultimate goal of U.S. policy."—Those who play down the importance of the pro-Israel lobby in American foreign policy are simply denying reality.


However, pressures originating from the big-money pro-Israel Lobby are not the only rationale for the rash policies adopted by the bellicose and risk-prone Bush-Cheney administration, within its Grand Plan to control the entire Middle East (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc.) and reconstitute a new, American-led, Ottoman Empire, even if that means creating chaos in the Middle East and in the world at large.


With the presidency occupied by an Oilman-in-chief and the vice-presidency by a former chairman and CEO of the oil-service company Halliburton, it should be no surprise to anyone that oil might have been on their minds when they planned a military conquest of the oil-rich Middle East. President George W. Bush himself has made it crystal clear: "Access to energy is a mainstay of our national security". In this scheme of things, Iran is not only the fourth largest oil producer in the world, it is also spearheading a move to switch the international oil market from the dollar to the euro. This makes it a financial threat, much more than a nuclear threat, which can be more easily contained and deterred.


But stealing somebody else’s resources at gunpoint, or forcing a country to use one's currency, is not something one announces out loud. The third reason, i.e. the Pentagon's push to build permanent super large military bases all over the place, cannot be swept under the rug either. Thus, the need to present the entire enterprise in a thick cloud of propaganda. In the case of Iraq, 'We want to force them to adopt our democratic ways of life', is a most dubious official rationale given for killing and maiming the Iraqi population, a rationale advanced only after the lies about dangerous weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and links to al-Qaeda had been ripped open. Relentlessly, American helicopters watch 24/7 over the Iraqi oil fields and gas pipelines, to make sure the take-over mission is not a complete failure. The towns may be in Iraqi hands, but the oil fields in Iraq will be managed by American oil companies, just as Vice President Cheney  had planned.


The questionable presumption here is that international laws and national sovereignty principles do not apply when some 'chosen' countries are involved.  It is also based on the practical assumption that a policy of legal deterrence could not work in the case of Iran, because being a theocracy with an elected parliament, its fanatically religious leaders are deemed not to be logical and pragmatic, and therefore are dangerous to world peace. That such a case could be made by the most religious White House ever, is not without irony.


Indeed, one should not forget that "tricky" Bush Jr. is a political manipulator who has a messianic vision of things. And since he has succeeded in enhancing his executive powers to the point that he alone can decide to launch a war or not, irrespective of any law, domestic or international, that makes him most dangerous and quite unpredictable. Keep in mind that he has already tasted and reaped personally the partisan political rewards of fear and war during the 2002 and 2004 elections, before and after his invasion of Iraq. —That Bush Jr. could be tempted to repeat his ploy should not be entirely unexpected. Personally, I would not be surprised to learn that Bush Jr. plays with the idea that one way out of his current deep unpopularity would be to whip the American public into another war fever, with the help of his friends at Fox News and the far right media, just in time for the coming November mid-term elections. 


This only goes to illustrate the danger the world is in when questions of domestic political strategy could get entangled with the possible use of nuclear weapons abroad. Thus, the fundamental questions are: Who can be trusted with nuclear weapons? Is there anyone who can be trusted with such terrible weapons? Shouldn't they be outlawed? Should not the act of threatening another country with nuclear arms be made an automatic crime against humanity?


All the countries among the dozen or so nations having nuclear weapons claim they have them solely for reasons of defensive deterrence and protection. In fact, during the Cold War period (1947 to 1991), nuclear weapons possessed by the main imperial powers did play a central role in reducing the risk that a conflict between them would escalate into a full nuclear exchange, with hundreds of millions killed. This was a consequence of a deterrence policy by each side. Such a policy of deterrence through nuclear armaments presupposes rationality on all sides. But, what would happen if fools or madmen happened to be in charge in a nuclear-armed country which is bent on using its nuclear arms offensively? The world has never tackled this question directly. It may have to do it soon.


In recent months, indeed, a dangerous shift in the rationale for the use of nuclear weapons has taken place: Indeed, the sitting American president refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons in an offensive war against Iran, while seeking to expand the already huge American. nuclear arsenal by asking Congress to fund research into new types of nuclear weapons. This does not augur well for the future.


We should all support the 1800 American physicists who recently petitioned President George W. Bush in these terms: "...our fellow physicists have joined in a petition opposing new US nuclear weapons policies that open the door to the use of nuclear weapons in situations such as Iran's. These policies represent a "radical departure from the past"... Indeed, since the end of World War II, US policy has considered nuclear weapons "weapons of last resort", to be used only when the very survival of the nation or of an allied nation was at stake, or at most in cases of extreme military necessity.

Instead, the new US nuclear weapons policies have significantly lowered the threshold for the potential use of nuclear weapons, as clearly evidenced by the fact that they are being considered as another tool in the toolbox to destroy underground installations that are "too deep" to be destroyed by conventional weapons. This is a major and dangerous shift in the rationale for nuclear weapons.


... Nuclear weapons are unique among weapons of mass destruction: they unleash the enormous energy stored in the tiny nucleus of an atom, an energy that is a million times larger than that stored in the rest of the atom. The nuclear explosion releases an immense amount of blast energy and thermal and nuclear radiation, with deadly immediate and delayed effects on the human body. Over 100,000 human beings died in the [1945] Hiroshima blast, and nuclear weapons in today's arsenals have a total yield of over 200,000 Hiroshima bombs.


Using or even merely threatening to use a nuclear weapon preemptively against a non-nuclear adversary tells the 182 non-nuclear-weapon countries signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that their adherence to the treaty offers them no protection against a nuclear attack by a nuclear nation."(Read more)


That a contemporary head of state does not rule out the use of nuclear weapons in a contemplated war of aggression is a major scandal in itself and is the best indication that the international legal system needs a complete overhaul. The question is whether such reforms will come before or after a major catastrophe.



Posted by Rodrigue Tremblay, May 15, 2006, at 9:00 am


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