Anyone hoping that the "no nukes in Iran" NIE report might hobble the Administration's armed march toward Persia should take note of how George W. Bush moved the goal posts in his warmongering game during a press conference on Tuesday.
As the New York Times reports, Bush declared that Iran will not be "allowed" to acquire even the "scientific knowledge" required to build a nuclear weapon. Previous "red lines" which could trigger an attack had been based on Iran actually building a weapon; now even nibbling at the forbidden fruit of nuclear knowledge could serve as "justification" for a "pre-emptive strike" to quell the "danger." After all, as Bush rather illiterately told reporters, "What's to say they couldn't start another covert nuclear weapons program?" Better safe than sorry, right?
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And at the very least, moving the goalposts in this manner will allow the Bush Regime to portray Iran as a dangerous, defiant menace for merely carrying on with its fully legal nuclear power program, as authorized by international treaty and monitored by the IAEA. Thus no matter what Iran actually does – or doesn't do – the Bushists will continue to use the "Persian menace" as fodder for the imperial war machine. [Josh Marshall notes how Bush laid the groundwork for this shift in his "World War III" press conference in October.]
[And as noted here yesterday, we again see this "damaging" NIE being used by the Regime to "confirm" its earlier contention that Iran indeed had a nuclear weapons program prior to 2003. This trope has already been adopted by every news story on the subject, and by almost all bloggers as well. (Including Marshall in the above-linked post, although he does put in an "apparently" when referring to the alleged pre-2003 weapons program.) Yet if the hardline, saber-rattling 2005 NIE on Iran had no hard evidence of an Iranian nuke-bomb program, then where did the go-softly, let's-talk 2007 NIE come up with any? Remember, the change in emphasis between the two documents stems, we are told, from new evidence showing that Iran has no active weapons program. If hard evidence of an existing weapons scheme before 2003 had actually been found, you can be sure the Bush Regime would be trumpeting it to the rooftops right now. I would imagine that the 2003 angle has been thrown in there either as a face-saving sop to the White House, or as a deliberate plant by the White House – or more likely, as a devious massaging of the new intelligence. The latter, if it actually exists, probably comes from a source whose involvement in the Iranian nuclear program either began sometime after 2003, or else was able to confirm to U.S. intelligence that "those activities which you believed were associated with a weapons program were not continued after 2003." What those activities might have been, and their actual relevance to a weapons program, will doubtless remain one of those Rumsfeldian unknown unknowns. In any case, as Arthur Silber pointed out yesterday: "The second you start arguing about intelligence, you've given the game away once again. This is a game the government and the proponents of war will always win. By now, we all surely know that if they want the intelligence to show that Country X is a 'grave' and 'growing' threat, they will find it or manufacture it. So once you're debating what the intelligence shows or fails to show, the debate is over."]
In seeking to prohibit Iran from acquiring the scientific knowledge to build a bomb, Bush is once again employing one of the Regime's most effective methods of fueling the wars and rumors of war that "justify" the "unitary executive's" tyrannical power grabs, keep the populace in a proper state of fear and confusion – and gorge the military-industrial complex with blood money: the Impossible Crusade.
As we all know, Bush has declared war on "Terror": a "long war," a "multi-generational war," a war without end…against an abstract noun, against an ever-elusive, ever-elastic, ill-defined concept which can never be "defeated" because it is, literally, no thing. It is just a name applied to various actions at various times. (Who can forget how Ronald Reagan's "freedom fighters" from the international jihadi army in Afghanistan became the "Islamofascists" who now threaten the very existence of Western Civilization?)
In like fashion, Bush has now declared war on "scientific knowledge" about nuclear weapons. (He has also declared war on many other forms of scientific knowledge, of course, but that's a story for another day.) Yet as Jonathan Schell points out in an excellent interview with Tom Englehardt, that genie is long gone from the bottle:
The bomb itself is the fruit of basic twentieth-century discoveries in physics, specifically its most renowned equation -- energy equals mass times the speed of light squared -- which gives the amount of energy that's released in nuclear weapons. Being rooted in science, the bomb is a mental construct to begin with, which means it's always present and will always be present, even if we do get rid of the hardware. The bomb in the mind will be there forever.But of course, as we have often noted before, the Bush Administration is not really interested in stopping nuclear proliferation. Rather, the Bushists are interested in using nuclear proliferation as a fearmongering goad to advance their agenda of dominion and loot. The fact that it is impossible to eliminate or control the scientific knowledge of nuclear weapons only makes it a more potent tool for stoking permanent war fever: it will always be out there, it's a "dire threat" that will never go away.
So, before any physical bomb existed, there was the bomb as conceived by scientists, destined, sooner or later, to become available to all competent and technical minds in the world. What follows, of course, is that a growing list of countries -- at present probably around 50 -- are able to have nuclear weapons if they so decide. What, in turn, follows is that, if those countries are not going to have the bomb, it will only be because they have made a political decision not to have it.
And what follows no less surely is that this global issue cannot be solved by any means but the political. More specifically, it can't be solved by military force....
For the bomb is misconceived as just a piece of hardware, or even many pieces of hardware scattered around the world. It is essentially, originally, and everlastingly a set of scientific and technological capacities open to all and coming at you, in a certain sense, from all directions at all times. As soon as you put out the fire over here, another is likely to spring up over there, and so on. Military force is singularly inappropriate for facing this conundrum and yet that's what the Bush administration chose. It's like trying to dispel a mist with a machine gun, just the wrong instrument for the job.
As Schell wisely notes, military force is indeed singularly inappropriate for resolving a political issue like nuclear proliferation. But it is manifestly the right instrument for imposing your will on others. And that is the "job" that the Bush Regime is pursuing with such dogged determination.
UPDATE: Iran expert Farideh Farhi has a surreal moment while hearing the unstoppable vomiting of lies coming from George Bush's mouth in his press conference about Iran. But we have to agree with one of Fahri's commenters: method, not madness or ignorance, is behind Bush's crude lies. He knows that the corporate media will not call him on his bare-faced, self-serving revision of the historical record, so he feels free to invent and pervert as he sees fit. Still, it's good to see some of the lies flayed open – for those who still care about such things. Obviously, our high media mandarins don't.
From "What is George Bush Smoking?":
...But being an "Iran person," my moment of utter disbelief came when I heard him say this in the news conference:
"People say, would you ever talk to Iran? For you veterans here, for those who have been following this administration for a while, you might remember that I have consistently said that we will be at the table with the EU-3 if Iran would verifiably suspend their program -- and the offer still stands. What changed was the change of leadership in Iran. We had a diplomatic track going, and Ahmadinejad came along and took a different tone. And the Iranian people must understand that the tone and actions of their government are that which is isolating them...But their leadership is going to have to understand that defiance, and hiding programs and defying IAEA is not the way forward. And my hope is, is that the Iranian regime takes a look at their policies and changes their policies back to where we were prior to the election of Ahmadinejad, which was a hopeful period. They had suspended their program, they were at the table. The United States had made some very positive gestures to convince them that there was a better way forward. And hopefully we can get back to that day."This goes even beyond deception and reaches the level of unreal. The man must either think that no one is watching or he must have really convinced himself that prior to Ahmadinejad things were going all swell with Iran.
Just for the record, it is important to remember that the inclusion of Iran as a standing member of axis of evil came in May 2002 when the reformist Mohammad Khatami was president and after Iran and the United States had cooperated in Afghanistan. It was also during the Khatami presidency, in 2003 and beyond, that the Bush Administration reportedly ignored Iran's offer of a deal and continuously complained about the European track to negotiate with Iran. In fact, as late as spring and summer of 2005, until the last days of Khatami's presidency, the Bush Administration refused to allow the Europeans to entertain any scenario that would permit Iran to contemplate engagement in any enrichment-related activity even in the future.
..It was this intransigence that ultimately led Iran to bring its uranium conversion plant in Isfahan out of suspension during the last days of the Khatami Administration. I continue to believe that this intransigence was also very instrumental in pushing aside the more conciliatory foreign policy that was practiced during the Khatami era and opened the path for the hard-line argument that no concession will satisfy the United States. The United States only understands the language of power and not dialogue, it was and is continued to be said.
Just in case you are wondering, the Bush Administration did finally make an offer of direct negotiation, of course with the precondition of Iran suspending its uranium enrichment activities. It also abandoned the long standing opposition the United States has had to Iran entering negotiations with the World Trade Organization. But it did so not during the Khatami Administration but when Ahmadimejad was president in 2006!
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