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The Secret War With Iran - Book Review by Jim Miles
Sunday, 12 October 2008 11:43
Tby Jim Miles

The Secret War With Iran. Ronen Bergman. Free Press (Simon & Schuster), New York, 2008. [Translated from “Nekudat Ha’al Chazor”]

secretIf one knew little about the Middle East and its many strands of religious, political, military, and strategic interests, this seemingly well written work would have the reader believing that Israel is the altruistic good guy – although making tactical mistakes in its counter terrorist endeavours – and the Iranians are the cause of all the atrocities in the Middle East. In the epilogue Ronen Bergman indicates that he “began researching this book in order to uncover and make sense of” the “secret war” that has been ongoing between Israel and Iran, and “to place the events…in their historical context.” If that is what he intended to do, then this work fails completely.

The major fault with The Secret War With Iran is exactly that, one of context. It is a fault that puts this book squarely in the genre of blatant apologetics and rhetoric exhorting the Americans to attack Iran. The contexts not revealed in the text are several. The main hidden context being the reasons for much of the Middle East’s anger at Israel, the ongoing occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian “territories”. This uses many guises from outright military force, imprisonment, torture, house demolition, through to the subtler and yet more psychologically abusive tactics of land expropriation, marriage laws, and a multitude of other laws that make it impossible for the Palestinian people to have a home and a culture. Only once in the work do I recall the word occupation being used, with the implication otherwise that the Israeli military is in Palestinian territory to stop the terrorists, not to ethnically cleanse the territory for Jewish Zionist settlers. [1]

The United States is mentioned frequently with the final commendation being that “Israel’s considerable contribution to America’s endeavors to make the world a better place must be acknowledged.” I would consider that an outright lie, unless Israel’s contribution is the shaping of the American political landscape (consider AIPAC and all the right wing American apocalyptic rapture fanatics looking for Armageddon). America has little consideration for the world being a better place, only a place that is subservient to its demands and wishes for resources and geopolitical control. That underlies the second major dissimulation in the text, the massive support that the United States has given Israel both directly as $3 billion in direct aid and more in military aid (per annum), and the aid it has provided to other Middle East countries in its attempts at hegemonic control. Alongside rests the American tendency to make this a religious war, “this crusade” in the words of Bush, and the Israeli acceptance and support for that are all concealed to the reader. Iran is not the only country that uses money, religious fanaticism, and subterfuge to work towards its goals.

Known and very popular cialis coupon which gives all the chance to receive a discount for a preparation which has to be available and exactly cialis coupons has been found in the distant room of this big house about which wood-grouses in the houses tell.

Another area taken out of context is of course the Iranian attempts to acquire a nuclear weapon. What Bergman describes as Iran’s march towards achieving nuclear success rings mostly true in relation to other books; and while he does simply admit that Israel has nuclear weapons, the Israeli process could well suffer the same description as he has given to the Iranian attempts as a “dance of lies, deception, fabrications, and stalling that [Israel/Iran] has been carrying out to mislead the West.” Israel of course was very successful with this, achieving a clear nuclear supremacy in the Middle East (one bomb would have done that) yet still playing a tune of recalcitrant coyness. The latter phrase refers to the fact that Israel operated entirely outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and still does and has never officially admitted to having a weapon, while Iran has been working within it, even if deceptively. Finally of course, lies the context of the United States being the main nuclear power in the world, the only nuclear power to have used the weapon, the only power to advocate a first-strike pre-emptive roll for them, and the main power abrogating treaties that attempt to control their spread (the ABM treaty, the NPF treaty and its current relations with India). [2]

This lack of context emphasizes the double standards that to a sceptical and educated mind permeate the stories. Along with the occupation of Palestine, the massive military support of the U.S., and the Israeli nuclear weapons, other double standards occur. The suicide bombings effects in Israel are vividly described, but never are the atrocities committed by the IDF in the occupied territories. Bergman says, “No attempt was made to get down to the root of the matter [suicide bombings].” Of course not, because the root of the matter is the occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people, although at this point in his tale of woe, the Israelis are in occupied Lebanon. Hizbollah and the Palestinians are implicated in drug dealings, ignoring the connection that wherever the Americans go in their quest against communists or terrorists major drug operations seem to spring up. Where there’s oil, there are Americans, where there are Americans there are war and drugs – it’s not strictly limited to Hizbollah and the Taliban. [3]

The ultimate insult from the perspective of double standards is in the reference section. Bergman’s sources are almost entirely Jewish (should we be surprised?) and he emphasizes the oral interviews as the main emphasis for his research. Oral history is described as “a complex matter that demands various rules and precautions, mainly finding written or oral evidence to confirm the information process.” That fully contradicts Israeli attempts to deny the oral history of Palestine, the destruction of over 500 villages and towns, the slow gradual cleansing of Palestinians from their land in spite of both oral and written records. Of course the occupation and ethnic cleansing are not even considered in this work so that disturbs Bergman not at all. [see note 1]

It would be laborious to go through the work pointing out all the other matters that are borderline dissimulation, double standards, and outright lies, but allow me a few examples. First up is Mossadegh who in most histories is considered to be a full fledged democratic personage who took power away from the Shah, gave the power to the people via the parliament, nationalized the oil companies (mostly British at the time) and while he despised the communists, allowed them to continue to operate. Bergman however describes Mossadegh as someone who “practically took over the government.” If taking over the government means transferring the power to the people, then yes, he “practically” took it over – we should be so lucky if that happened in the U.S. The only reason he did not was because Britain and the U.S. conspired to eliminate him one way or another. That is where the real story of modern Iran begins, not with the overthrow of the Shah. [4]

A few ‘smaller ‘ items entertain the story along the way: Khomeini seeing the world “as a clash between good and evil (same school of religion as Bush); the Shah’s son being “perhaps the best person to explain his downfall” (truly unbiased that would be); the U.S. “maintained pressure on Tehran not to violate human rights” (a constant with U.S. foreign affairs, never minding its own business); criticizing the PLO for behaving in Lebanon “as if the country belonged to them” (perhaps recognizable from the Israeli occupation of Palestine?).

What really irked my anger was the simplistic lie concerning the Sabra and Shatilla massacres, that “Israel was not an active partner in this atrocity, but its forces also did nothing to prevent it.” Even if one could salvage a grain of truth from this, the Israelis were an occupying force and therefore responsible under international law for the safety and health of the citizens of that country. There is so much evidence against this that it can only be labelled a lie – oh yes, I forgot, it’s oral history mostly, corroborated by many participants and eye-witnesses. I guess it doesn’t count then. [5]

I could go on …and on…with the double standards and out of context information in this work, but then I would be rewriting it for the next while, an unnecessarily strenuous task. What then is Bergman’s ultimate purpose in writing all this? Possibly threefold. First, having the U.S. attack Iran would save Israel a lot of men and equipment at least initially. Secondly, it would destroy Iran’s perceived intent against Israel, but as with the Shah, would manipulate the geopolitical scene in Israel’s favour. It could, but not likely, shift some of the retaliation and revenge focus away from Israel but as the U.S. and Israel are so intertwined that would not be too likely. Another consideration, as it is a work of propaganda in the truest sense, is to convince American politicians of all stripes (well, there really is only one stripe to an American politician) that attacking Iran is a necessity.

Whatever the reason, the book falls within the categories of rhetoric, dissimulation, and propaganda. Bergman has faithfully fulfilled the Israeli media position of an aggrieved Israeli state fighting off all the terrorists, while denying its own terror and ethnic cleansing within the Palestinian territory. Read it if you wish, but be guarded as to what you accept. [6]

[1] there are many recent works on this topic. See among others: Ramzy Baroud’s The Second Palestinian Intifada; Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine and A History of Modern Palestine; Tanya Reinhart The Road Map to Nowhere and Israel/Palestine; Jonathan Cook’s Blood and Religion; Geoff Simons’ The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine; more recently: Marda Dunsky’s Pens and Swords and Saree Makdisi’s Palestine Inside Out – An Everyday Occupation.

[2] see Michael Karpin, The Bomb in the Basement – How Israel Went Nuclear and What That Means for the World.

[3] see various works by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, including Whiteout and Imperial Crusades.

[4] see Stephen Kinzer’s All the Shah’s Men (Wiley, 2003) and Overthrow (Times Books, 2006)

[5] this story is written in many of the books found under note 1 and in many other books. As this month is the 26th anniversary of the massacre there have been a number of recent internet articles as well on the topic, from which two excerpts:

Robert Fisk – “If the Israelis had not taken part in the killings, they had certainly sent militia into the camp. They had trained them, given them uniforms, handed them US army rations and Israeli medical equipment. They had watched the murderers in the camps, they had given them military assistance – the Israeli airforce dropped all those flare to help the men who were murdering the inhabitants of Sabra and Chatila – and they had established military liaison with the murderers in the camps.” http://www.countercurrents.org/pa-fisk180903.htm

Mahmoud El-yousseph – “Present at the command post [the Kuwaiti embassy] were the primary architects of the atrocity: Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon…along with high-ranking army officials….A group of refugees who reached the one of the Israeli checkpoint [sic] were ordered by soldiers to return back into the camp – even though they told the soldiers that people are being slaughtered inside. This encounter was documented by a Scandinavian news crew.” http://www.palestinechronicle.com/view_article_details.php?id=14175

[6] for a much stronger and more academically balanced history, one that looks at many more perspectives more accurately see Treta Parsi’s Treacherous Alliance – The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the U.S. (Yale University, 2007).
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Comments (4)add comment

Ali said:

Great to see someone is seeing through the deception. I will never understand how someone could juast deny the truth to the extent that it makes them look insane. I wish more people in the world - atleast in poer - had your view. Keep up the good work.
October 12, 2008
Votes: +0

Visitor said:

Why I support Israel.
It is clear that author is not a supporter of Israel. I would like to explain quite clearly why I support Israel: If Israel were to put down it's weapons, it would be slaughtered. If Israel's enemies (Iran, Hamas, etc) were to put down their weapons there would be peace.

Israel has never called for the elimination of Iran. In fact, Israel has had nuclear weapons for years yet never attempted to lay a finger on Iran - even as Iran trains and equips the terrorists that kill Israelis.

Iran on the other hand, spends considerable time, effort, money, and resources dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Only when Iran (dedicated to the destruction of Israel) is close to getting the nuclear weapons which would allow it to fulfill it's goal of destroying Israel does Israel consider an attack on Iran - not to "wipe Iran off the map" or push its citizens into the sea but only to delay it's nuclear program.

As far as Israel's, "ethnic cleansing" of the Palestinians - there are 1 millions Arabs who live in Israel. In Israel there are Arab police men, Arab judges, Arab political parties in the Israeli Parliament (Kenesset), Arab doctors and lawyers and even Arab soccer players who play on the Israeli national soccor team! In fact, these Arabs are the only Arabs in the middle east who get to participate in actual democratic elections! Put simply - those who choose to live in peace with Israel get welcomed by Israel as neighbors and live peacefully. Of course Israel's treatment of the Palestinians have been very harsh - but this is not an innocent population. As mentioned, if Palestinians were truly ready for peace they would of had a state by now living side by side with Israel.
October 14, 2008
Votes: +0

Jay21 said:

Dishonesty on display
"...ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian “territories”.

This so-called review is so full of transparent seething hatred against Israel and all positive U.S. and Israel links, that I'm amazed you'd try to pawn this diatribe off as a "review." Your personal crusade is clear on its face. The book review pretext was only your black horse.
October 14, 2008
Votes: +0

Publion said:

Friends don't let friends
I came across a local news article recently wherein local Jewish gentlemen expressed concern that “Israel” was “misunderstood” by increasing segments of the public and they were going to be doing something about that.

I wonder if this is merely a shrewd pre-emptive effort to start distancing the Israeli ‘cause’ from the awful mess in Iraq. Mearshimer and Walt may have overstated the case by saying that Israeli influence was the prime mover in the invasion of Iraq – American lefties’ mushy desire for ‘humanitarian intervention’ and righties’ desire to pull off a modern version of McKinley’s grab of the Philippines so American business and power could have a base close to the China of the ‘Open door’ era were more than enough to push the invasion along – but it certainly didn’t hurt that Israel and AIPAC were behind it one hundred percent.

I think that it’s not really being honest to say that if somebody notices unpleasant realities, then that person is not a ‘friend’ – friends, famously, don’t let friends drive drunk. So I’d note that Israel as a political entity has more than enough baggage; and that the baggage is playing a pivotal role in US domestic and foreign affairs, and so is perfectly liable to scrutiny by Americans – it’s what democracy is about.
Here is a sovereign entity whose path was prepared by the Stern Gang’s acts of outright terrorism – against British troops, thank you very much – which was then followed up by an amphibious invasion by non-state armed forces, which itself was then followed up by a bloody cleansing of the local population; and then it was put out publicly and officially by the new Israeli government that “a people without a land found a land without a people”, which really wasn’t the case at all.

Truman was advised by numerous experienced diplomatic sources that it would not be wise, would ultimately be hugely damaging, to recognize the Israeli state which the armed invaders had raised up. The gist of it was that to recognize such an act formally would degrade the legitimacy the postwar world was trying to achieve after decades of Hitler’s and Stalin’s and Hirohito’s and Mussolini’s murderous land-grabs; and that none of the neighboring states in that oh-so-troubled region were likely to sit still for it, ever. But Harry pointed out that he had few Arab voters to worry about, and lots of … an other type of voter.

LBJ went to far as to ignore the repeated lethal attacks on an American naval vessel flying a Stars-and-Stripes over a dozen feel long on a windy day in perfect sunlight – and the usually memoir-filled Robert McNamara claims now has that he has absolutely no memory of personally ordering US carrier aircraft dispatched to the ship’s defense to return to the carrier, though the admiral in charge on the carrier said he received just such a radio-phone order and – indeed – there can be no other explanation. Feh.

We are now told that the Israeli’s have nuclear weapons – and that they are to be congratulated for their spunk in developing them and their grand forbearance in not yet using them – when for all the decades I can recall the Israeli government has been claiming officially that it has never had them. Is that supposed to be ‘old news’, now – that we are supposed to forget ever happened? So this tells me I can’t really accept Israeli pronouncements at face value as a matter of course, and should be skeptical of its ‘friends’ when they try to pass on the party-line.

But then, this is a nation with whom the US has no defense treaty, has never had one, and a country which indeed has refused to sign such a treaty. So just what in the world is America doing? What is Israel doing?

The Israeli state is no ‘David’ to the Arab ‘Goliath’. It has for half a century played a very dark and bloody game on an already bloody and troubled ground. And to defend itself by claiming it seeks to prevent ‘another Holocaust’ doesn’t at all cut it. The world’s Jewish population is now so spread out over the planet that there could never be a successful Final Solution even if the entire ‘realm’ of Israel were – God forbid – destroyed. And even more important: such end-justifies-the-means justification, so brazenly employed for so long, has greatly and vividly contributed to the corruption of the world’s moral discourse, and certainly the U.S. government’s. And to say that the Israeli government is only doing what the Americans have been doing since 1620 in their sustained and bloody march of Manifest Destiny is hardly a moral justification, and I’m not sure how much of a useful political ploy it will prove to be.

I found Mr. Miles’ review very interesting and quite credible. The real question that reading the book raises is: what on earth does the U.S. do now?
October 16, 2008
Votes: +0

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