Swanson: “‘Freedom Watch’ Threw a War and Nobody Came”

David Swanson writes in a guest column for Informed Comment:

The Neoconservatives, despite wandering in the wilderness after their Iraq debacle, are trying to keep the dream of serial wars in the Middle East alive. Freedom Watch and the Foundation for Democracy in Iran sponsored a National Press Club event on November 17, in which former CIA director James Woolsey, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, and former UN ambassador Alan Keyes demanded war on Iran.

There’s little reason to believe that the sort of propaganda they were pushing will end any time soon, or that the corporate media will ever give it the wholehearted condemnation it deserves, much less see it prosecuted under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which bans war propaganda. But the desperation in the voices of these cheerleaders for war speaking to an almost empty room, and the media’s choice to completely ignore them, is heartening.

The full event is available in video on the website of Freedom Watch, the group that sponsored the conference.

In watching it, I spotted several of the major types of war lies that are analyzed in my book War Is A Lie: Iran must be attacked because it is evil and demonic, including in ways that do not threaten anyone outside Iran in any way. At the same time, attacking Iran would be an act of defense, not offense. We can take this defensive step or perish — there is no other choice. And, in addition, while Iran or at least its government is evil, a war on Iran would be a humanitarian act on behalf of the people we would be bombing, an act in the name of democracy whether they want it or not. The war would not actually hurt anyone, or at least would be far milder than the rape and torture of the evil dictator. War would liberate the Iranians.

War rationales that don’t work as propaganda, like control of the earth’s oil supply, were openly stated once and then ignored. That, too, is typical. Real reasons for war are not secret, they’re just not repeated over and over.

Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch spoke first and denounced the U.S. policy of “appeasement” toward Iran. But appeasement is supposed to mean a failure to resist attack. Iran has not attacked anyone in centuries. Iran has not made any demands on our nation. Iran has learned to produce a couple tons of low-enriched uranium for fuel or medicine — a catastrophically bad choice, but one the law permits and one the United States has also made. Iran has been falsely alleged to be developing nuclear weapons. If, despite the absence of evidence, Iran were developing such weapons, how would that be something for the United States to appease, and how would we be appeasing it? Apparently by failing to launch a war on the basis of the possibility that Iran might get nuclear weapons someday, the likelihood of which is of course increased by all the U.S. talk of launching a war.

Klayman also claimed that “the Persian people” need to be “set free.” But much as we dislike our own rulers, do we want — and does law permit — a foreign military to come in and “set us free”? The propaganda point is to make Ahmadinejad into such a devil that Americans will support a war to save Iranians from him, even though such a case for war has absolutely no basis in law and no connection to the other lies about an Iranian threat to the United States, and even though most of the people who would be killed would be ordinary Iranians.

Next up was Woolsey, a member of the Project for the New American Century who pushed the bogus idea of an Iraq connection to 9-11 within hours of the 9-11 airplanes striking their targets. Woolsey explained that Ahmadinejad is a new Hitler. Iran is very similar to Nazi Germany, he claimed– totalitarian and intent on killing all the Jews. He did not explain why Iran’s 25,000 Jews have a representative in parliament and continue to live peacefully as Iranian citizens. Woolsey obsessed that Iran has uranium that could conceivably be enriched further to produce fissile material for a bomb, though in theory all countries that have research reactors, such as Holland, could do the same thing.

Talking to Iran would be naïve, Woolsey said. Speaking from the capital of the largest empire ever known with a military larger than the next 14 militaries in the world combined, Woolsey explained that when we talk to enemies they view us as weak. That’s how Ahmadinejad views us, he claimed. The point did not seem to be that Iran would commit national suicide by attacking us, so much as that our egos should feel slighted and we should want to compel international respect by refusing to speak to anyone.

We need to get serious about sanctions, said Woolsey, but it may be too late. Too late for what exactly? Apparently too late to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, although according to the 16 US government intelligence agencies, Iran does not have a bomb, does not even have a weapons program, and cannot possibly have warhead any time soon. If Iran is allowed to continue, Woolsey remarked — apparently forgetting what nation he’s a citizen of — “then we in Israel and in the United States” will face some very serious decisions. Woolsey said that Iranian nukes were not acceptable to the American people, and Iran was very close to having them. He cited no evidence for either claim.

If force is used, Woolsey said, it must destroy the Revolutionary Guard, but not the Iranian people. Yeah? How will that be done?

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, (R., Minn.) denounced Iran’s “ever-impending threat to nearly every nation of the world.” Iran “continues to strut and deploy,” she said, meaning something I’m sure, and probably something related to whatever motivates people to back wars through which their nation can claim dominance and respect. “They already have nuclear capability,” she announced. “Ahmadinejad has announced his intention to bomb the state of Israel,” she lied.

Quickly abandoning the supposed case for war, Bachmann focused on demonizing Ahmadinejad. Iranian protesters were shot and tortured last year “by their own government,” she said. Presumably the idea is that such crimes cause less suffering if committed by someone else’s government. Hence our humanitarian role.

Bachmann concluded by claiming to want peace. She was then asked how Bush and Obama have differed on Iran. Bachmann declined to pretend she had any idea but said that Iran is insulting us and thumbing its nose at us.

Just when you might have thought we’d scraped the bottom in Iran war advocacy, Alan Keyes took a turn at the karaoke stage. Keyes was quite upset about the “imperialistic essence of Islam since its inception.” Never mentioning the one nation with military bases on every continent, Keyes stood strong against “imperialistic ambition that rears its head throughout the world.” Who do we find resisting our aggressive wars all over the world, Keyes asked, using other language — why, Iran, of course. We’re being “beaten and pummeled” around the world every day by forces driven by Islam and Marxism. Who knew?

“I’m not going to say that those in power in our own country are as hostile to our nation’s security as our enemies are. I’m not going to say that,” said Keyes before saying it, hitting on a very common propaganda technique that equates war opposition with joining the other side of a war — even if there is no other side because there is no war yet.

Also speaking was a man with the false name Reza Kahlili, a mask, sunglasses, a “FREE IRAN” baseball cap, and a distorted voice. He was billed as a defector from the Iranian Guard and a former CIA spy, although his remarks suggested that either he still works for the CIA or they used to pay him unnecessarily. Kahlili described a history of Europe and China selling weapons to Iran — as if the United States has not done the same, as if you can fight a war against an unarmed country, as if you can sell arms to Saudi Arabia without making sure Iran is armed first!

Kahlili also announced that Iran has a nuclear program and explained that President Obama is doing everything wrong. We need to control the oil, Kahlili explained, and to stop the spread of weapons to terrorists. Rather than opposing weapons sales or aggressive actions that generate terrorism, Kahlili proposed changing the government of someone else’s nation. We need to help the Iranians overthrow the regime, he said. If we appease Hitler we will witness another holocaust, he explained.

The evil Islamic regime rapes and tortures, he said, ending with “god bless” — a comment presumably directed to a non-Islamic god.

Ken Timmerman of NewsMax claimed that by failing to help Iranian protesters, Obama was strengthening the evil regime. Obama has also dared to communicate with Iran without making his communications public. That must not be tolerated.

Where could this conference go after a rightwing reporter demanding regime change and denouncing the president for not waging enough war? To September 11, of course! Vincent Forras spoke as a September 11 first responder who denounced the idea of building a mosque near the “holy ground” of “ground zero.” This was supposed to strengthen the case for war on Iran but not involve bigotry of any sort. I’ll admit I can’t see how that works.

Klayman concluded by stressing again that Iran’s is a “modern-day neo-Nazi regime” where “they hate Christians and Jews.” A good ruler of Iran, he said, was the Shah — never mentioning the U.S. coup that overthrew Iran’s democratically elected prime minister to put that U.S.-government-friendly dictator in place. Even more disturbing were Klayman’s final words about his supposed love for the “Persian people who have largely broken away from Islam.” Klayman believes “they need to find faith,” Christian faith apparently.

That ought to work.

—-
David Swanson is author of War is a Lie (cover graphic)
War is a Lie
(Charlottesville, Va., Nov. 2010).

21 Responses

  1. This is brilliant, David. I’ve been watching the neoconservatives begin to slither out from under their rocks and start the drum beat towards preemptive war with Iran. If they use the Rovian technique of repeating easy-to-digest (for the proletariat), fear-laden lies, will they be successful in pushing this through the national corporate media? I don’t know. The fact that they use Bachman as a mouthpiece fascinates me, because my feeling is that most of the PNAC members are ivy league educated elites. I have a tendency to dismiss Bachman, but perhaps I should pay more attention to her, as I did when neocon Bill Kristol pushed Palin onto McCain. The psychology behind neoconservatism/PNAC is what occupies my mind these days. These guys are no dummies (if an Ivy League education indicates intelligence – uh oh, I just remembered George W. Bush) and not only strongly believe that they are right in their focus on controlling Middle East oil through aggression/preemptive force, but also don’t hide their intent (as compared to the fundamentalist Christian right – like the C Street gang – who have been quietly trying to infiltrate all levels of US govt and policy). When I see my friends on the left coloring Cheney as the evil Darth Vader or he and his fellow PNAC members as oil/greed-driven, I think it is simplistic. They must have a psychological world view that supports war as the only answer (versus diplomacy, collaboration, etc.), where education and reason have no influence or are used only to support that world view.

    • Brilliant David – your right-on points give me hope. And Lisa, you’re on to something that immediately crossed my mind as I read this…what is in it for these neocon-warmongers? Surely it’s not fiscal responsibility… it can’t be personal war glory as they surely won’t be the ones personally leading the troops into battle… is it commodity stock gains when the price of oil jumps up? …Sometimes I think I understand (not agreement btw) their rationale but then I try to think through it myself…and it turns to craziness – insanity -…I can’t compute what the neocons would gain from such a move and wonder how they can rationalize it – unless they really are so full of hubris and selfishness it’s fried every brain cell they ever had… (oh…maybe it’s the secret Israeli citizenship…)

      • I really think it’s a psychological world view. Cheney and Bush still say that at some point their actions will prove to be right. That things like torture are excusable in the face of “evil”. They really believe that. There seems to always be a threat that needs to be opposed. There’s a rigidity to their beliefs, responses and ideology. Where people who believe in diplomacy know that compromise is required, to these people compromise is a weakness. There needs to be a threat or show of force, rather than an exploration of mutually agreed upon solutions. They believe that talking to “the enemy” is tantamount to appeasement. Problems or problematic people don’t need to be understood before they are addressed, they just need to be stopped. Sure, the world’s supply of oil is waning and this does constitute a threat to all nations who depend on it. But they never seem to think of alternative energy sources as a solution (and invest in them). They are stuck in their control and command stance. Superiority, whether it be military, education or monetary, is an imperative, versus seeking common goals and forging alliances. It’s a desire for pure power. I could go on, but I haven’t sorted it all out yet in my head.

  2. Excellent commentary, thank you.
    Traitors are all over, but the greatest traitors are the corporate press and its agents, the so-called “journalists”, all of whom collaborate by ignoring “inconvenient” facts and opinions.

  3. The remark about the Shah really sums it up. The constant Iranophobia that has never really let up in the US since the Shah was deposed is all about bringing back some form of the Shah, another a US puppet regime and imperial garrison. The neocons have a longterm plan of “perpetual hegemony” over central Asia, and anything like a free and independent state stands in their way.

  4. I just happened to catch 7 DAYS IN MAY last night…….I had never seen it before, and thought that I vaguely knew what it was about……..but it was still astounding! It was made in 1964, but if you replace Russia with Iran, it could have been made yesterday! Same old propaganda (appeasement, strike now before it’s too late, Hitler/Germany, blah, blah, blah……) Nothing apparently ever changes with the war hawks.

  5. This kind of eloquent and accurate description, and such focus as you can bring to bear on the national-socialist madness, in a country dominated by The Narrative that has been so artfully captured by these creatures, is all well and good.

    Seems to me the question is how can this juggernaut be tipped over? Like the man says, the “Christian Armageddonist loonies” have been filling the decision nodes with their people for a long time now, and there is so much momentum to the whole machine that converts Real Wealth, generated by people who might be of good will if not duped by the Rovogingrinchians, into what we suffer now, the end-game of the MIC.

    All the vectors point straight at the cliff, and the grade of the terrain is steepening, all downhill from here…

  6. These neoCon fanatics will get their war. Average Americans will allow it to happen, just as they allowed the Iraq catastrophe to happen in 2003. Obama will feel compelled to thwart claims he’s “weak” and, like LBJ, will seek a war to placate the right wing. We already know Obama feverishly wants to be respected by conservatives.

    • No Jim, Obama doesn’t want to be respected by conservatives, and he isn’t like LBJ, and he wouldn’t start a war to show he’s not weak. Obama just fights in struggles where he either knows he can win or he thinks there is a high probability that he can win. He doesn’t waste time on lost causes or battles that won’t end in some pragmatic victory. He’s been that way since he was a state senator in Springfield, or even a community organizer in Chicago. The behaviors that look to people who don’t know him as if he is conceding to conservatives to win their respect are in fact the result of him taking a careful look at the votes he has and the political realities, and making a calculation about whether good legislation will be the outcome. Fighting stupid conservatives may feel good, but if it doesn’t achieve some desired result beyond feeling good, why do it? Obama has a strong moral compass, and he’s not about to start a war with Iran. But no, he won’t speak out against what stupid war-mongers are saying, because he’s too busy getting other things done.

      • Glad you think so highly of Obama, kind of puts him right up there with LBJ “trading” movement on the Great Society for millions of GIs and billions of dollars and all the other stuff that’s going on in Notagainistan in that made-a-few-people-very-rich-and-powerful thing I got to go fight in called the Vietnam War.

        Tell you what, Obama IS the nominal Commander in Chief, and he IS signing off on those findings that support all that Secret War stuff, and he is OK with assassinating US citizens, and groping them, and oh so many other bits of reactionary crap that anybody paying attention in 1970 would see was on the horizon as this country “developed.” You keep cheerleading for the guy and making excuses.

        I would not mind him being a one-termer if the next guy in line is a sensible progressive with the cojones to risk murder by his Praetorian Guards, as at least one Emperor did, to try to derail the juggernaut that leads to the world of the “Terminator.” Where the autonomous battle robots already in the pipeline and the inevitable future have killed off all the weak, frail humans.

  7. Well, so much for any illusions among libertarians here that Alan Keyes = Ron Paul. Not that Keyes has ever or will ever gain traction among the base – ultimately, there is literally no black man in existence that they will ever trust as their tribal war chief. They do not worship war for the glory of America, but for a subset of America, and at the expense of all the other subsets.

  8. “Ken Timmerman of NewsMax claimed that by failing to help Iranian protesters, Obama was strengthening the evil regime.”

    I am one of those Green Movement protesters. I am proud to be a long-standing “moderate Muslim” (i.e., reformist), and of course I voted for [the real President of Iran] Mir-Hossein Mousavi. I have no doubt that the reason the likes of Timmerman (i.e., Extreme Zionist Israel) want Obama to “help” us “Iranian protesters,” is because Israel wants the Green Movement destroyed at the hand of Ahmadinejad/Mesbahieh cult coup “government” (remember the 1953 CIA coup?) given that they need Ahmadinejad, et al, as “pretext.” And so far, the coup-makers has been very happy to play the role assigned to them, by their co-dependent partners in extremism in Tel Aviv–and D.C.

  9. These people go back to Woodrow Wilson who was leading the Christian Crusade to bring truth justice and the American way to Europe while creating a Constitution free state controlled America where dissenters were imprisoned and the economy run for the benefit of banks and war profiteers. Both parties were on board so nothing different there. McKinley fought a war to “free” the Philippines and then kept it as it had to be Christianized. Free it from the pagan Catholics except where we slaughtered the Muslims. Before that we had to save ourselves from the Indian savages that kept attacking our peace loving citizens who were stealing their land. It wasn’t until late in the game that they began to say we were doing it for their own good. This country is based on a culture of lies and slaughter and militarism.

  10. So American foreign policy is being made where?

    link to nytimes.com

    November 25, 2010

    G.O.P. and Tea Party Gains Are Mixed Blessing for Israel
    By MARK LANDLER and JENNIFER STEINHAUER

    WASHINGTON — When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel came to the United States recently for another round of tense talks with the Obama administration, he got a decidedly warmer welcome from one of the rising Republican stars on Capitol Hill, Representative Eric Cantor, the incoming majority leader of the House.

    But while Mr. Cantor and other newly empowered Republicans are eager to promote themselves as Israel’s staunchest defenders in Washington, the reconfigured American political landscape is a more complex and unpredictable backdrop for Middle East peacemaking.

    Scores of Tea Party-backed candidates are entering Congress, many of whom favor isolationist policies and are determined to cut American foreign aid, regardless of its destination. Rand Paul, the newly elected Tea Party-backed senator from Kentucky, bluntly told the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, an influential pro-Israel lobbying group, that they were going to disagree about the need for foreign aid and suggested that they move on to other topics, according to a person briefed on the meeting.

    “One of the first things Congressman Cantor can do is to make sure that his colleagues vote for aid to Israel,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who also met with Mr. Netanyahu.

    Mr. Schumer and others worry that support for Israel in Congress, long a bipartisan article of faith, could become politicized in a way that will end up harming Israel’s interests. In the recent election, the administration’s Middle East policy became a partisan issue, seized on by several Republicans who pointed out that President Obama had tended to take a tougher line against Israel….

  11. Poor Chalmers Johnson must already be turning in his grave. Here we have yet another marker on the road to imperial overstretch and national collapse.

    If the recent election results are any indication of the American electorate’s willingness to mistake cynical manipulation for a patriotic defense of American values, we have to face the very real prospect of another bellicose Republican executive branch just two years over the horizon. The neocons couldn’t find WMDs in Iraq, but they’ve spent several years trying to convince the world that they are likely to exist in Iran. If we were stupid enough to elect George W. Bush twice (well, one and a half times), we might just be stupid enough for deja vu all over again. Support our troops. Keep us safe. Fight for freedom. God bless America!

    I don’t think Chalmers would have said this, but sometimes I think we really deserve to end up on the scrapheap of history.

    • I don’t just think – I know we deserve the dung heap of history … the only way ‘up’ from the free fall to that heap, is doing the opposite of what right-wing neocons want… ie humility, dismantling the empire, apologizing and begging the world for forgiveness, giving up our rights to commodity control, etc… I’m fully aware that this might be painful in the short term but ultimately saving in the long run.

  12. RE: Congressnutter Michele Bachmann, (R., Minn.) denounced Iran’s “ever-impending threat to nearly every nation of the world.” Iran “continues to strut and deploy,” she said…
    EXCERPT FROM THE OBSERVER GUARDIAN, 09/21/2003:

    …Without a ‘just, comprehensive and lasting’ peace which only America can bring to pass, Israel will remain at least as likely a candidate as Iran, and a far more enduring one, for the role of ‘nuclear-crazy’ state.
    Iran can never be threatened in its very existence. Israel can. Indeed, such a threat could even grow out of the current intifada. That, at least, is the pessimistic opinion of Martin van Creveld, professor of military history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. ‘If it went on much longer,’ he said, ‘the Israeli government [would] lose control of the people…
    …In this situation, he went on, more and more Israelis were coming to regard the ‘transfer’ of the Palestinians as the only salvation; resort to it was growing ‘more probable’ with each passing day. Sharon ‘wants to escalate the conflict and knows that nothing else will succeed’.
    But would the world permit such ethnic cleansing? ‘That depends on who does it and how quickly it happens. We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force. Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: “Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.” I consider it all hopeless at this point. We shall have to try to prevent things from coming to that, if at all possible. Our armed forces, however, are not the thirtieth strongest in the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.’

    SOURCE – link to guardian.co.uk

  13. Juan,

    Looks like your whole schtick just blew up. From what I read on the Wikileaks Saudia Arabia, Jordan, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and other Arab nations are all beating the drum to bomb IRAN. This is not a NeoCon Israel only cabal. These countries truly fear Iran. What is your spin ? That Israel is still the cause of 80% of USA’s problems in the ME and controller of our ME policy? I am sure the above mention countries have a huge pull on Congress.

    • It is not your fault that you have been brought up to think propagandistically and are unable to make or understand a logical argument. We all knew that the Sunni Arab states are hysterical about Iran. However, the US does not routinely do things because Egypt asks it to (that is also in the wikileaks), whereas the US does 95% of what Israel asks it to do. So Israel is still much more important in driving the crisis with Iran. In fact, Israel has often suggested it will act itself, which the Arabs have not. As for 80% of the problems of the US in the Middle East deriving from its one-sided support of Israel and beating up on the poor Palestinians, that remains true and anyone who has ever lived and travelled in the region will say the same thing. If we got a fair two-state solution tomorrow, it would help the US enormously and deprive Iran of its propaganda coups. Virtually none o the implications you have drawn is true, relevant or contradictory to my analysis. It bewilders me that obviously intelligent people let themselves be so swayed by partisanship for their cause that they lose their critical faculties and seek out any crumb of evidence that will shore up a rotten argument.

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