May 11, 2006
Bush to Iran: “We Will Bury You”
It often takes a malcontent to see the obvious (“Ever notice how people who believe in creationism look really unevolved?” — Bill Hicks).
Those observers of American history who are able to separate their personal demons from their observations — or whose personal demons aren’t activated by the situation at hand — have long been aware that translations are among the primary tools of propagandists, especially those propangandists whose goal is war. Specifically, the war we fight while they sit at home.
I don’t mean to claim that the US is alone in using its propaganda system to create a drumbeat for war — far from it. What I do claim is that the US propaganda system is by far the most pervasive and effective one in history. If Rome had television and movies, I’d be writing this in Latin (“Watching television is like taking black spray paint to your third eye” — Hicks again).
One of the most famous incidents of intentional misrepresentation is Nikita Khrushchev’s We will bury you. A more complete version of the quote reads, “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you,” which the Wikipedia entry calls “a meaning more akin to ‘we will attend your funeral’ than ‘we shall cause your funeral’.” But of course this version wasn’t particularly good propaganda.
Time magazine introduced its more effective version this way:
At the final reception for Poland’s visiting Gomulka, stubby Nikita Khrushchev planted himself firmly with the Kremlin’s whole hierarchy at his back, and faced the diplomats of the West, and the satellites, with an intemperate speech that betrayed as much as it threatened.
This is what they meant by objective journalism: obviously biased statements that reinforced the propaganda of the day. And this is still the method of much of what passes for serious journalism.
It’s true that we can’t with a straight face refer to Christopher Hitchens as a serious journalist. (Isn’t it interesting how Hitchens used to look like a drunk who hadn’t showered for a week, but his opinions were often instructive, whereas nowadays he’s full of right-wing lies, but he appears to have washed his hair?)
So I am basically ignoring the contretemps between Hitchens and Juan Cole, except to note that one of the disputants has credibility and the other does not, that one opposed the war in Iraq and opposes a war against Iran, while the other supports both. This situation makes it difficult to avoid speculation on the ravages of alcohol, but that’s another topic.
Perhaps the most important distinction between Juan Cole and neo-con fellow travelers like Hitchens is the ability to tell the difference between what actually happened and what one wishes had happened. Naturally those whose demons prefer an attack on Iran to an honest examination of US policy toward Israel would prefer to believe that Iran’s President Ahmadinejad threatened to “wipe Israel off the map”. The problem is that he didn’t.
Or maybe this is really not a problem.
How would it sound if Bush kept repeating: “The Iranian president has quoted Ayatollah Khomeini, who died seventeen years ago, as saying ‘the occupation regime over Jerusalem must be erased from the page of time’ ”? Pretty lame huh. Or if he were to say, “In ten years, Iran might be able to build a nuclear weapon to use against Israel, which itself has had a couple hundred nukes for quite awhile?” Pretty lame too. You can be sure that employees in the current incarnation of the Office of Special Plans aren’t being paid to churn out that kind of stuff. They’re paid to produce effective propaganda to justify the planned attack on Iran.
“This is how we’ll spin it,” some wise neocon must have suggested as soon as the Iranian leader made his statement. “We’ll say Ahmadinejad has stated publicly that he wants to wipe Israel off the map, and since we know that Iran is trying to produce nuclear weapons, clearly Iran plans to nuke Israel at the earliest opportunity. People will say, ‘That’s crazy, Israel would respond to an attack by destroying Iran.’ But we’ll say, ‘Ahmadinejad is indeed crazy. And he’s as bad as Hitler!’”
The author of that assessment, Gary Leupp, who is a professor of history and an adjunct professor of comparative religion at Tufts, makes it clear that he doesn’t believe that protecting Israel is the real reason Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice want war with Iran. Certainly the neo-cons have consistently maneuvered to put US military power at the service of Eretz Israel. But their track record in reality has never approached their level of self-confidance, and practical politicians have yet to take them seriously as anything other than propagandists for the war the politicians have decided will be profitable.
I cannot recommend highly enough the advice of Manuel García in his magnificent “Outline For Revolution”:
There is a way of disciplined thought and ethical action that allows us to realize a personally meaningful life. The key is to be aware of what is manipulative propaganda, and what is factual. It is essential to develop critical thinking, and character — both of these require a continuing personal effort. This is possible if one is motivated. The reward is a life without fear, and with a bulletproof self-respect.
Without fear? How many Americans can imagine such a thing? If it’s not Saddam, it’s Freddy Krueger. All we know is, someone’s coming to get us. Perhaps they know what we did in the spring of 2003…
As Leupp says:
They could say, honestly, “This has more to do with acquiring geopolitical control over Southwest Asia and encircling rising China than fighting terrorism or establishing the security of the Jewish state.“ But they can’t say that without validating chapter and verse Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism and calling into question the whole logic of the system. So they lie, make up quotes, plant scary stories in the press, doing so more recklessly as the president’s poll figures drop. All so they can wipe their enemies off the map, using their own nukes to do so.
Posted by Chuck Dupree at May 11, 2006 12:53 AM
Although your article was well written and intriguing, I wonder where you obtained confirmation of your statement that Bush wants a war with Iran? I may have missed that bit of news, but what I have heard from the White House is that we need to utilize diplomacy and sanctions rather than aggression in this situation.
War with Iran will destory the Iranian people, Jews and Americans. This regime will fall from within.
Hepzibah, my impression that Bush is committed to attacking Iran comes in part from news events in which he avoids any contact that might allow for a diplomatic solution.
For example, here’s Condi admitting that she’s responding to the letter from Ahmadinejad before the White House has translated it. They already know what they think: the Iranian regime is illegitimate, and they will not talk with the Iranians. No matter what Iran offers.
Here’s a CFR interview with Flynt Leverett, who held senior posts at the National Security Council, the State Department, and the CIA:
Let’s then go to the essence. Is this one of these clichés that the neo-cons in the Bush administration wanted regime change and nothing else and didn’t want to talk to the Iranians?
I think you’re right. That’s the basic motivation, that you had a bunch of neo-cons, and even the president himself [against dialogue], it’s not just the neo-cons who wanted regime change and nothing else. Ultimately the president is, on this issue, very, very resistant to the idea of doing a deal, even a deal that would solve the nuclear problem. You don’t do a deal that would effectively legitimate this regime that he considers fundamentally illegitimate. I think that’s the real issue.
And he considers it illegitimate because of what? Because it overthrew the Shah in 1979?
No, in the president’s view you have this unelected set of clerical authorities, epitomized by the supreme leader, who are thwarting the clearly expressed will of the Iranian people for a more open, participatory political system, for more political, social, intellectual, and cultural freedom — all this kind of thing. And so it’s a system that in Bush’s mind is fundamentally illegitimate. It’s a system that needs to change, and he is not going to do a deal that lets this regime off the hook, even if that deal would solve our problem with them over the nuclear issue.
Of course the fundamental source is Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker:
There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community, that President Bush’s ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change. Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has challenged the reality of the Holocaust and said that Israel must be “wiped off the map.” Bush and others in the White House view him as a potential Adolf Hitler, a former senior intelligence official said. “That’s the name they’re using. They say, ‘Will Iran get a strategic weapon and threaten another world war?’ ”
A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was “absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb” if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.”
In recent weeks, the President has quietly initiated a series of talks on plans for Iran with a few key senators and members of Congress, including at least one Democrat. A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, who did not take part in the meetings but has discussed their content with his colleagues, told me that there had been “no formal briefings,” because “they’re reluctant to brief the minority. They’re doing the Senate, somewhat selectively.”
The House member said that no one in the meetings “is really objecting” to the talk of war. “The people they’re briefing are the same ones who led the charge on Iraq. At most, questions are raised: How are you going to hit all the sites at once? How are you going to get deep enough?” (Iran is building facilities underground.) “There’s no pressure from Congress” not to take military action, the House member added. “The only political pressure is from the guys who want to do it.” Speaking of President Bush, the House member said, “The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a messianic vision.”
I wrote to discuss another meaning change. When Arabs generally say they plan to "wipe Israel off the map" they are not referring to driving the Jews into the Med, or slaughtering them all. Their position has (with varying degress of consistency) that the creation of Israel was wrong, and then when it is uncreated, it will be removed from the maps.
Vis-a-vis a war on Iran, I think you are ignoring that loads and loads of Democrats are using hyperbolic and reckless rhetoric to encourage Americans to want war with Iran.
Tom Lantos, Howard Berman and Gary Ackerman are the top ranking Democrat members of the House Int'l Relations Committee, and they all voted for war on Iran.
It's only "extremists" on both sides, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul (the most right-wing congresscritter in the last 75 years, if it involves the Federal government, he simply says no) who are against this current move.
The recent Iran bashing act passed the House by wide margins.
John Edwards and Steny Hoyer both banged the war drums at the recent national AIPAC convention.
Democrats I know, a Democrat I even respect, have been saying things like "Iran is more dangerous than Iraq was" as if that somehow justifies a new war.
If one actually reads the IAEA reports (the last one was only 11 pages, and not too technical at all) one would see that Iran is complying with rules that they have no legal reason to comply with, that the go to all the IAEA meetings and manage to produce some answers every time. The IAEA usually tells them to go back, we need more details about such and such, or you didn't give us the desired answer to so and so, and then, at the next meeting, the IAEA gets more answers.
Ray Takeyh, the top Iran guy at the Council on Foreign Relations, is not an Iran war monger. I think he's the sanest guy on the topic of Iran's nuclear weapons.
Of course, the Bush team is _leading_ the warmongering crusade against Iran, as far as America is concerned, and many Republicans are marching in lockstep (a few far righties excepted, and the centrist Jim Leach of Iowa).
As far as Bush's rhetoric goes, he is very bad at lying. Reagan could act(lie) like a professional actor(liar). Bush is strictly second rate. Remember all that tripe about not wanting war with Iraq, either?
They are not negotiating with Iran, these moral potentates call Iran "evil", and they blame Iran for US troubles in Iraq. And someone thinks they don't want another war? Pull the other one, it has bells on.