Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Iran: Can't get fooled again?

Fool me once, shame on President Bush.

Juan Cole, U of Michigan professor and Middle East expert (and lightning rod for Rightist backlash against "experts" and their "facts") takes down the recent report on Iran's level of threat to the US -- pointing out, correctly, that there is no known evidence that they have the near-term capability to produce nuclear weapons, that many of those hyping their danger are, you know, the same types who hyped Iraq's dangers, and that the report misuses work from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which apparently said, as of last January, that "Iran has continued to facilitate access under its Safeguards Agreement as requested by the Agency, and to act as if the Additional Protocol is in force, including by providing in a timely manner the requisite declarations and access to locations." Not to mention that Iran has every legal right to enrich uranium for nuclear energy (not weapons), under treaties that it is still in compliance with (unlike the several nuclear treaties the US has opted out of under Bush II, and Israel, which has never signed the Nonproliferation Treaty -- Iran has).

Further, political scientist Virginia Tilley makes the argument that Iranian Prez Ahmadinejad hasn't been saying what you think he's saying. She makes the very believable argument that his comments on Israel and its destruction have been mistranslated and his aggressiveness towards that state and denial of the Holocaust therefore misrepresented. She cites Juan Cole, among other Middle East experts, and it is at least plausible, given that CNN did mistranslate him (and apologized for it) as saying that Iran wanted nuclear arms, when he in fact said nuclear energy. She also argues that his Holocaust comments are not denials of its existence, but rather that he has questioned its use as a rhetorical tool for Israel's aggressive "offense is the best defense"-ive reactions. Additionally, she says that knowledge on the Holocaust is less widespread than we might imagine, and that this is hardly unbelievable given, say, US citizens' ignorance (and occasional outrage) over the observably true fact that two million Vietnamese were killed in the Vietnam war -- certainly, a horrific event for the population of Vietnam, whatever you think of that particular inadvisable war. I'd also cite US ignorance over the thousands of Nicaraguans dead from Iran-Contra, the general repression of the US-supported Somoza regime there before that, Pinochet's crimes, and even our likely ignorance over the scale of the current crisis in Darfur. I, for one, can't name numbers -- only reiterate sound bites that it is/was a genocide and, you know, large and bad. So, point is, it is certainly plausible that Ahmadinejad has been nowhere near as militant as he's been portrayed. Soemthing never quite seemed right to me about the reporting on him, perhaps this is why. He's portrayed as a Kim Jong-Il type, but he really doesn't seem THAT kind of insane to me. I, as some of you, have a counter-reaction of "is she just an apologist for him, or at best taking the rosiest possible translations?" I mean, the broad point that we can't afford to underestimate dangers to us when the stakes may be substantially high is not invalid -- but we still need to have proof for things, imho. (None of the formalized insanity of the One percent doctrine for me, thank you.) So while I'm not capable of evaluating Prof. Tilley's evidence, I'm also not capable of providing any concrete evidence she's incorrect. Think about it -- is there any evidence Ahmadinejad is as militant as he's portrayed? Any proof he is crazy enough to want to attack countries that certainly can then wipe his country off the map? (I.e. the US or Israel.) Nuclear weapons have been in existence for decades, and still have only been used by... us, the US. We had our reasons (whose conclusions I question, but that's a different story). But nonetheless, in the issue of the insanity of destroying millions of people, only we have enaged in that. In the insanity of mutually assured destruction, well -- no one has ever engaged on that with nukes, and need we say that WE had the same posture on that as the USSR? Dr. Strangelove notwithstanding, we've not proved we're necessarily saner than self-concerned despots with nukes who refuse to use them so as to save their own hides. SO -- I'm just sayin', while it's too early to assume Ahmadinejad doesn't mean us harm and indeed is not the "Jew-hating, Holocaust-denying Islamo-fascist who has threatened to 'wipe Israel off the map'" he's been said to be, it's also way too early to determine he IS, barring the "truthiness" we feel of an Iranian head of state being antagonistic, messianic, anti-semitic, and dangerous. Just because we looked Iran up in our gut and found it under "danger" doesn't mean that we're on our path to not being fooled again...

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