Friday, August 19, 2005
WE DON'T respect or understand any religious or nationalist fervor other than our own.By Robert Scheer
08/16/05 "Los Angeles Times" -- -- WE DON'T respect or understand any
religious or nationalist fervor other than our own. That myopic distortion
has been a persistent historical failure of U.S. foreign policy, but it
has reached the point of total blindness in the Bush administration.
The latest exhibition of this approach was President Bush's thinly veiled
threat this weekend to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities or even invade the
country as a last resort, sparked by Tehran's troubled negotiations with
the West over its nuclear program.
It is telling that Bush made the comments on Israeli television, which
makes them exponentially more provocative. Israel is, of course, not only
Iran's archenemy but is also believed to be the sole possessor of nuclear
weapons in the immediate region.
It is as if Bush is not content to rattle his saber at Tehran's
hard-liners; he also wants to ensure that he infuriates and publicly
mbarrasses even moderate Iranians.
If diplomacy fails, "all options are on the table,"Bush said. "You know,
we've used force in the recent past to secure our country." But it was
precisely Bush's use of preemptive force against Iraq that now makes it so
difficult to pressure Iran to abandon its worrisome nuclear program.
Neither the security of the Iranians nor of the world is enhanced by any
nuclear program that includes weapon capabilities. Nuclear weapons are
inherently weapons of terrorism, and international monitoring of nuclear
programs for all countries is in order. Iran insists that it only wants
peaceful nuclear power, but we cannot assume it is telling the truth. If
Tehran refuses to be transparent and open to inspections, the U.N.
Security Council can take up the issue of imposing sanctions.
Yet as the head of the only nation to have used nuclear weapons on human
beings and the one currently devising the next generation of "battlefield"
nukes, it would seem that Bush should be a little more careful about
trying to seize the moral high ground. This is especially the case because
Washington has accommodated the nuclear programs of three allies
(Pakistan, India and Israel).
The timing of Bush's bombast is particularly unfortunate. Only last week
the world marked the 60th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki. The mayor of the latter city, which was apparently destroyed at
least partly because the U.S. military wanted to test a plutonium-based
bomb, was bold enough in his anniversary remarks to point out the
hypocrisy of our current stance.
"To the citizens of the United States of America: We understand your anger
and anxiety over the memories of the horror of the 9/11 terrorist
attacks," he said. "Yet, is your security enhanced by your government's
policies of maintaining 10,000 nuclear weapons?"
Bush's Iran policy is rife with contradictions and idiocies. What, for
example, is the point of publicly threatening Iran when doing so
immeasurably strengthens the hand of hard-line nationalists and religious
fundamentalists in Tehran? These are the people who, for more than a
century, have secured much of their appeal by posturing as the protectors
of the Muslim populace against Western imperialism.
And the reality is that we are in a much, much weaker position vis-a-vis
Iran than we should be because of our invasion and disastrous occupation
of neighboring Iraq.
Iran now holds some high cards in this poker match. It is closely allied
with the most powerful force in post-Hussein Iraq: Shiite religious
leaders. Any invasion of Iran might break our already strained military
machine. If Iran were to send its fanatical revolutionary guards into Iraq
as saboteurs, they could make the current carnage seem like a walk in the
And finally, Iran is one of the world's biggest oil exporters. At a time
when oil prices are soaring, much of the rest of the world would be
hesitant to back the United States in any adventure that could cut off the
As German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder put it accurately on Sunday in
response to Bush's comments: "Let's take the military option off the
table. We have seen it doesn't work."
What can work is what has worked in the past: carefully maximizing
international pressure on Tehran to comply with the demands of the
International Atomic Energy Agency so that Iran's program can be monitored
and limited to nonmilitary purposes.
Perhaps this isn't as exciting to the neocon chicken-hawks in the Bush
administration who love treating the world like a big game of "Risk," but
it is certainly the most prudent approach if the goal is a more peaceful