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Friday, August 31, 2007

Test Marketing and Salesmanship: The Propaganda Battle for War with Iran

I think everyone should know that you may soon be subjected to a marketing blitz promoting war with Iran. Like the author of the post below, I don't know whether this is true or not, but "it’s worth a heads-up":

Test Marketing, by George Packer: If there were a threat level on the possibility of war with Iran, it might have just gone up to orange. Barnett Rubin, the highly respected Afghanistan expert at New York University, has written an account of a conversation with a friend who has connections to someone at a neoconservative institution in Washington. Rubin can’t confirm his friend’s story; neither can I. But it’s worth a heads-up:

They [the source’s institution] have “instructions” (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don’t think they’ll ever get majority support for this—they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is “plenty.”

True? I don’t know. Plausible? Absolutely. It follows the pattern of the P.R. campaign that started around this time in 2002 and led to the Iraq war. The President’s rhetoric on Iran has been nothing short of bellicose lately, warning of “the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.” ...

It amazes me that there is a chance this would work again, but given the media's inability to challenge the administration on these issues, I suppose I shouldn't be so surprised.

Glenn Greenwald adds:

The President’s Escalating War Rhetoric On Iran, by Glenn Greenwald: George Bush, speaking before yet another military audience, yesterday delivered what might actually be the most disturbing speech of his presidency, in which he issued more overt war threats than ever before towards Iran...

Viewed through the prism of presidential jargon, Bush’s vow — “We will confront this danger before it is too late” — is synonymous with a pledge to attack Iran unless our array of demands are met. He is unmistakably proclaiming that unless Iran gives up its nuclear program and fundamentally changes its posture in the Middle East, “we will confront this danger.” What possible scenario could avert this outcome?

By now it is unmistakably clear that ... the fear-mongering warnings about an Iranian “nuclear holocaust” ... is but the pretext for achieving the true goal — regime change in Tehran. Bush all but said so yesterday:

We seek an Iran whose government is accountable to its people — instead of to leaders who promote terror and pursue the technology that could be used to develop nuclear weapons.

In other words, we “seek” a new government in Iran. Are there really people left who believe, with confidence, that Bush is going to leave office without commencing or provoking a military confrontation with Iran? Bush also added: “I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities.” To underscore the fact that this is not mere rhetoric, the U.S. military in Iraq, following Bush’s speech, arrested and detained eight Iranian energy experts meeting in Baghdad with the Iraqi government — handcuffing, blindfolding, and interrogating them — only to then release them when the Iraqi government protested. The path we are on ... is obviously the path to war.

The Iraq debate is over, at least from the perspective of actual results. It has been over for some time. The Congress is never going to force Bush to withdraw from Iraq. We are going to remain in Iraq in more or less the same posture through the end of the Bush presidency. That is just a fait accompli. The real issue of grave importance that remains unresolved is Iran, and it is hard to find causes for optimism there either. ...

More disturbingly still, we have the same exact cast of neoconservative warmongers who brought us the invasion of Iraq, now chirping away ever more loudly, performing their tough guy war dances while courageously beating their little chests and urging on new wars.

More explicit war demands are now issuing from the ... likes of Max Boot (of the Council on Foreign Relations, The LA Times, and Norm Podhoretz’s Commentary Magazine) — who wants to invade Syria and bomb the Damascus airport — and then fueled by fresh-faced war cheerleaders like James Kirchick, who ... writes both for the “liberal” New Republic and Podhoretz’s Commentary blog. Yesterday, Kirchick — who has convinced himself and then publicly announced that his desire to send other people off to war proves how much “grit” he has — swaggered up and showed real grit by proclaiming:

Max is right on the crucial point, which is that Syria and Iran have effectively declared war on us. Make of that what you will. But it’s not “warmongering” to simply state the fact that two rogue states are themselves complicit in unwarranted acts of warmongering against the United States and a nascent democracy in the Middle East.

They want a war not only with Iran, but also with Syria — as do their ideological comrades such as Joe Lieberman, the only person whom Bush quoted yesterday in his speech. ...

The groundwork for an attack on Iran is so plainly being laid in the same systematic way as the attack on Iraq was and by the same people. Last week, Djerejian read and then dissected the full “trip report” issued by Pollack and O’Hanlon following their return from Iraq. In addition to including even more propaganda-bolstering claims about Iraq than was found in their Op-Ed, Djerejian noted that the report also recites the most mendacious aspects of the administration’s case for war against Iran, including the truly idiotic accusation regarding “Iran’s ability to supply al-Qa’ida” — an accusation so absurd that nobody other than Joe Lieberman has been willing to voice it until now. Yet now it issues from our most Serious Democratic, “liberal” foreign policy “scholars”: Iran is arming Al Qaeda.

The ... danger here is that ... those who favor an attack are still politically strong within the administration. And there simply are no factions which would oppose such an attack that are anywhere near strong enough to stop one. ...

Who is going to match the zeal and influence of these warmongers in order to stop them? The notion of attacking Iran may be insane, but it is not considered such by our mainstream establishment. Those who muse about it openly — Lieberman, McCain, Giuliani, Kristol, Max Boot — are not considered fringe extremists or unserious radicals, even though they are. Their views are comfortably within what is considered to be the realm of serious and responsible foreign policy advocacy.

As we march step by step with barely a debate towards a confrontation with Iran — one that neoconservatives have long been proclaiming is inevitable — are there any meaningful efforts to avert this? We frequently hear the slogan from war critics about Iraq that “hope is not a policy.” The same is true with regard to preventing an attack on Iran.

UPDATE: Kimberly Kagan, of our nation’s preeminent War Family (specialty: Advocating Wars, not fighting them), has a new report in The Weekly Standard today melodramatically entitled: “The Iran Dossier — Iraq Report VI: Iran’s proxy war against the U.S. in Iraq.” Wow, she has a “dossier.” Sounds ominous, and very serious.

She alleges that “Iranian-backed insurgents accounted for roughly half the attacks on Coalition forces” and decrees that “Iranian intervention is the next major problem the Coalition must tackle.” In other words, we are at war with Iran. One would be remiss if one failed to note that always fueling these efforts is the incomparably gullible “war reporting” of Michael Gordon and his endless series of NYT front page articles designed to legitimize the war case against Iran.

If this is where they are headed, how do we stop this insanity? This is my (frustratingly) small contribution to the effort. This is an economics blog, and I never know how far to push outside of that boundary, or what tone to take when I do, but I can't sit by and do nothing while the same people who got us into the mess in Iraq apparently try to salvage something from their mistakes in an ill-advised, double or (less than) nothing gamble with other people's lives.

Though "hope is not a policy," I still hope these reports are wrong. But if not, let's do all we can to help saner voices prevail.

    Posted by on Friday, August 31, 2007 at 04:23 PM in Economics, Iraq and Afghanistan, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (34)

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