“The American media’s gravest shortcoming is much more their errors of omission than their errors of commission. It’s what they leave out, or seriously underemphasize, that distorts the news more than any factual errors or out-and-out lies.” – William Blum
“History is written by the victors,” as Winston Churchill once observed, and the victors have the unique privilege of forgetting the embarrassing facts.
Many of these embarrassing facts have been conveniently forgotten by the media and by high-ranking political officials with regard to Iran. In Orwell’s words, it simply “wouldn’t do” to mention them. They are there for everyone to see, if we are willing to look, they just don’t fit the narrative.
Ralph Nader illuminated many of these uncomfortable facts in a recent article; I’ll outline some of them below.
Like the fact that the United States and the UK backed a military coup in 1953, which brought about the overthrow of democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, who dared to challenge Western control of Iran’s oil supply.
And the fact that the United States installed and supported a brutal dictator, the Shah, and supported his development of a nuclear program. Now, of course, the wrong people are in power, so the U.S. has done a complete 180.
The winners have the luxury of forgetting the embarrassing facts, but the losers are stuck with them; they don’t, and can’t, forget.
“A generation of Iranians grew up knowing that the C.I.A. had installed the shah,” writes Tim Weiner, author of Legacy of Ashes.
The fact that the U.S. backed Saddam Hussein in his invasion of Iran in the 1980’s is also conveniently omitted.
As is the fact that Israel, not Iran, is a nation which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and which possesses stockpiles of nuclear weapons of its own. Nader writes,
It is as if Israel, while complaining about Iranian behavior, does not continue their Palestinian policies that violate several United Nations’ resolutions, while goading the U.S. toward war against Iran.
But they are the “good guys,” the “beacon of light in the region,” so all is well.
These pesky facts, among many others, are what led Noam Chomsky to, referring to the murderous sanctions that the U.S. has been imposing on Iran since 1979, remark that,
Iran should be imposing sanctions on us.
He went on to say,
…during the past 60 years, not a day has passed without the U.S. torturing the people of Iran.
It began with overthrowing the parliamentary regime and installing a tyrant, the shah, supporting the shah through very serious human rights abuses and terror and violence.
As soon as he was overthrown, almost instantly the United States turned to supporting Iraq’s attack against Iran, which was a brutal and violent attack. U.S. provided critical support for it, pretty much won the war for Iraq by entering directly at the end. After the war was over, the U.S. instantly supported the sanctions against Iran. And though this is kind of suppressed, it’s important.
Needless to say, Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t care to mention any of this in his speech to Congress.
He continues to portray Iran in much the same light as Iraq was portrayed in the buildup to the 2003 invasion: An imminent threat, one that must be dealt with at once.
Ralph Nader writes,
Starting from his preposterous premise that Iran, a poor country of 77 million people with an economy nearly the size of Massachusetts’, is planning a caliphate to conquer the world, Mr. Netanyahu builds his case on belligerent words by Iranian leaders, who believe they are responding to Israeli belligerence backed by its ultra-modern, U.S. equipped military machine and its repeated threats of preemptive attacks against Tehran.
I don’t believe that we should dismiss Iran’s hatred of Israeli regimes, or of the United States, as baseless rhetoric that is unimportant or irrelevant.
However, I do think that it’s important to investigate, seriously, the reasons behind this hatred. But, when one dares to do so, one is labeled a “terrorist sympathizer” or “anti-American.” It just “wouldn’t do” to discover that Iran might have plausible reasons for despising, and fearing, Israel and the United States.
Yes, history does turn up answers that we don’t like. But disregarding these answers blocks the path to a solution to the problems we face in the Middle East and worldwide. Further, as Nader points out, essential to finding the answers is asking the right questions.
A way to clarify jingoistic biases in foreign policy is to ask the questions: who was the initial aggressor? Who is the invader, the occupier, the ever hovering armed drone operator? Who has backed and armed dictators to repress their people who want no more such nation-building by the U.S.?
For a century, is it we, with the British and French, who have been over there or is it they who have been over here? Brutish conditions breed brutish behavior in all directions.
I certainly don’t want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. The reality is, however, that we, knowingly or not, have repeatedly shoved them in that direction with our actions. Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld has gone as far as writing, in 2004,
Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy.
The US and Israel have shown an unlimited willingness to invade and destroy other countries with no credible pretext.
Here’s Nader again:
It is as if Iranians are not frightened into thinking they’re next when George W. Bush named Iran as part of the “axis of evil” (along with Iraq and North Korea), and proceeded to destroy Iraq and surround Iran with U.S. armed forces that are still in place to this day.
Iran would not be insane to believe that it is next on the list of U.S. targets; anyone who looks at a map of U.S. military bases in the region could come the same conclusion.
The idea that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon to use offensively seems to be implausible.
While it is not logically impossible, there is no sign that Iran is ready to commit instant suicide, which is what would take place if they even began to load a weapon of mass destruction. Martin van Creveld wrote, in 2005,
We Israelis have what it takes to deter an Iranian attack. We are in no danger at all of having an Iranian nuclear weapon dropped on us….thanks to the Iranian threat, we are getting weapons from the U.S. and Germany.
Not to mention the fact that United States is not exactly unprepared, militarily speaking.
But right-wing hawks like Netanyahu continue to smash the panic button (as he has been doing since 1992, in fact) insisting that we must stop diplomatic talks with Iran. Insisting that we must move closer and closer to yet another war, yet another disaster. Insisting that Iran is a country with an irrational hatred directed toward anyone who likes freedom, apple pie, and baseball.
I think the reality is far more nuanced, and it should be discussed. But it probably won’t be, at least by those in the media and in government, who prefer to keep their heads safely lodged up their asses.