Through Thick and Thin …History Repeats Itself Again
All these terrible things keep happening in the world, and I want to write about them, but there’s a problem. After spending the last few years studying the world and history I have discovered that much of the “common knowledge” about what the world is like is so far off base that I have to explain so much just to even start writing it’s ridiculous. So, today I’ll just rant about that. It’s Israel’s sixtieth birthday. Bin Laden issued a statement from whatever Motel Six he’s hiding in. A lander is getting ready to make a powered landing on Mars, and were praying it’s a powered landing as opposed to a powered crash. And here in Berkeley we are having an unprecedented hot spell following the driest spring in recorded history. Granted recorded history only goes back about a hundred years around here, but still, it’s dry.
So, the Middle East. Here’s a great example of a major misconception in circulation, what one single fact do most Americans know about Iran, a fact that basically is repeated every time Iran comes up in the mainstream media? Most Americans know for a fact that Iran wants to destroy Israel because Iran’s president Ahmadinejad said so. That’s the beginning and the end of what most American’s know abut Iran. Ahmadinejad = Hitler. Bush even said just that recently.
Unfortunately this fact needs to come with a few disclaimers: It’s not really what Ahmadinejad said, and it’s definitely not what he meant. He was talking about regime change, not genocide. It’s most definitely not Iran’s foreign policy to “destroy Israel.” Yet because one Iranian elected official (Ahmadinejad isn’t a dictator and doesn’t wield anything like the power of say the POTUS) sticks his foot in his mouth, everything else vanishes. How about the Israeli official who called for a “shoah” against the Palestinians, does that mean Israel’s policy is genocide? Americans can easily see that what one person says in a western country is part of a much larger picture and shouldn’t be taken out of context, yet can only think of Iran in a stereotyped almost cartoon like fashion. And let’s not forget that an Iranian attack on Israel would be suicidal, so they have no reason to attack Israel, no means to do so, and enormous reasons not to.
And once people have incorporated that supposed raving Iranian threat into their world view, no discussion is possible. And it makes it easy to blame Iran for other stuff like the problems in Iraq and Lebanon. Of course Iran has everything to lose and nothing to gain by causing problems in Iraq, since the Iraqi government we installed in Iraq is already closely aligning itself with Iran. Ahmadinejad even visited Iraq, and got a much better reception that a certain Mr Bush. But no, Iran has been tarred as Hitler, sooner or later there will be an incident, and the war with Iran will be on.
This game has worked for American imperialists for a century or more. Pick an enemy, demonize them, wait for an incident (or manufacture one,) then use that incident to justify whatever steps you want to take. (Always involving pouring buckets of money into corporate pockets coincidentally.) Anyone who disagrees is a coward or a terrorist. Lincoln used the shelling of Fort Sumter to justify a war that killed nearly a million Americans. Roosevelt used the explosion of the US battleship Maine to justify seizing an American overseas Empire. The sinking of the Lusitania brought Americans into Europe’s wars, and we all know what happened after Pearl Harbour. And every time there has been one of these “attacks” on America, the response has been for the Federal government and American military to grow ever larger and for America to assert its dominance over more of the globe. People die in droves, the rich get richer and politicians go down in history, this is progress?
And of course 9/11 is a fine ornament on this tree. We’ve expanded the government’s power and size once again and redoubled our spending on the military, and asserted a right to kill anyone anywhere if we deem them a threat to America. Yes, America has “won” all it’s wars, but at what price? In all cases there might have been better ways to acheive our goals, ones that didn’t involve so many dead American’s for example. It’s not allowed to even question that though. And I don’t really see that this series of expansions has made us safer, it’s just expanded our borders. More borders, more barbarians at the gate.
Did that make any sense at all? I wonder if all Empires go through these periodic expansion cycles, it’s a hideously self reinforcing algorithm. The Romans certainly did, the parallels to the USA’s twentieth century wars and Rome’s wars with Carthage are creepy. Senator Cato’s “Carthago delenda est” (Carthage must be destroyed) made his career and place in history. I’m sure he would have done just fine in the Senate today endlessly repeating “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran…”
Have a great weekend everyone.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law, it is not being used for profit, it is central to illustrating the post, and most importantly its use here in no way hinders the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image, arguably the opposite. Credit: AFP. It’s a bust of Julius Caesar found in the Rhone River recently. It’s the only bust of him that appears to have been made during his life, and it looks pretty realistic, which was the style at the time. He was 56 when he was assassinated.)