Setting Up the Next U.S.-Israeli Target (Iran) For Another “Supreme International Crime” 1

By Edward S. Herman and David Peterson ICH 1/28/07

The ease with which a supposedly independent media in a supposedly democratic society like the United States can demonize enemies and convert third- and fourth-rate official targets into major threats is almost beyond belief. And the collective amnesia of the establishment media enables them to do the same thing over and over again; they never learn, and most important never have to learn, because the collective amnesia they help instill in the society protects them against correction–an unending series of victories over memory in the exercise of “reality-control” (Orwell). This enables the media to serve as de facto propaganda agents of their state while still claiming to be independent watchdogs. Less than three years ago, in 2004, the New York Times and Washington Post were hardly alone in offering partial mea culpas for having swallowed and regurgitated Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Powell-Rice lies about Saddam Hussein’s menacing weapons of mass destruction (WMD),2 thereby making a major contribution to the criminal and costly quagmire they now bemoan (but, along with Bush, still declining to urge any quick exit or meaningful withdrawal.) And yet they had barely gotten out their apologies before they eagerly climbed aboard the Bush-Cheney-Rice-Olmert bandwagon on the Iran menace and urgent need to do something about that grave threat.

And what a threat it is! Admittedly, Iran doesn’t possess a single nuclear weapon, and won’t have one for some years even if it is trying to get one, which its religious leaders vigorously deny. If it got a nuclear weapon it couldn’t use it except in desperate self-defense as both Israel and the United States have many nuclear bombs and superior delivery systems, so that any offensive use of its nuclear weapon(s) would entail Iranian national suicide. It may be recalled that Saddam used his WMD only against Iran and his Kurds, but not even in self-defense during the 1991 Persian Gulf war attack on Iraq by the United States and its “coalition”–the former use was with U.S. approval, the latter case of non-use was because Saddam would have suffered disproportionate retaliation by the United States and his restraint followed. This point is not made in the establishment media, possibly because it would seem to qualify the Iran nuclear menace.

The media also do not draw the further inference that an Iranian nuclear weapon would therefore serve only as a means of self-defense and to give Iran a little more leverage in dealing with the nuclear power states–the United States and Israel–that openly threaten it. Instead, the media, following the official line, talk about an Iranian nuclear weapon as “destabilizing,” when what they really mean is that the Israeli-U.S. continuous war-making, ethnic cleansing, and deliberate and effective destabilization of the Middle East would be made more difficult.

Of course, in the demonization tradition, the media feature the special menace of the evil men who run the Iranian state. In the good old days the trick was to tie them to the Evil Empire (the Guatemalan leadership in 1954, the Sandinistas in the 1980s, and in fact any national liberation movement or uncooperative leader who might have sought arms from the Soviet Union), carefully avoiding any awkward earlier support the United States might have given the evil man when he was doing its bidding (Noriega, Saddam in the 1980s and earlier). The media play this game well and regularly perform in the manner that would fit comfortably into the world of Big Brother, where “any past or future agreement [with the demonized enemy] was impossible.…The Party said that Oceania had never been in alliance with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasia so short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated.” In the case of the Iraq war the technique has been simply to play dumb and never mention the earlier alliance between “Oceania” (the United States) and “Eurasia”(Iraq).

In the Iran case, its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has done yeoman service in facilitating the demonization process, although the media have distorted his remarks, misrepresented his power, and generally provided a misleading context to meet the demands of demonization. Ahmadinejad allegedly proclaimed that “Israel must be wiped off the map of the world,” a threat proving how dangerous Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon would be for Israel; the former Israeli Prime Minister and Likud Party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu currently leads a campaign calling for Ahmadinejad’s indictment on the charge of inciting genocide against the Jewish state.3 But it has been shown that Ahmadinejad did not threaten Israel with violence in his October 26, 2005 address before the World Without Zionism conference. Rather, to commemorate International Quds Day, he quoted a number of passages from Ayatollah Khomeini, and in one of these quotes, Khomeini had predicted the passing or ending or vanishing of the Israeli occupation of Quds (i.e., Jerusalem) from the pages of time.4 Furthermore, Ahmadinejad does not rule Iran and does not have the power to go to war against Israel–that power lies with the Mullahs, as the New York Times and others deign to mention when the Mullahs are criticizing Ahmadinejad and thus points can be scored against him.5

On the other hand, both Israel and the United States have leaderships greatly influenced by religious groups whose principles encourage and welcome violent expansionism and even apocalyptic, “end-time” scenarios. The media do not mention U.S. and Israeli religious fanaticism as posing any kind of regional or global existential threat. Nor do they discuss or express great concern over the fact that whereas a few nuclear weapons would only help Iran to deter other states from attacking it, the United States and Israel could use nuclear weapons against Iran without committing national suicide. And both of these nuclear states threaten and reportedly have very active plans for such an attack.6 In the Kafka Era, while such credible plans and threats disappear, the mythical threat to wipe Israel “off the map” is placed front and center, helping make the real threat politically more feasible.

Full article: Information Clearing House


1. According to the Final Judgment at Nuremberg, a ruling that has provided all succeeding generations with the classic pronouncement on the illegality of aggressive war: “War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” See Final Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Trial of German Major War Criminals (September 30, 1946), specifically “The Common Plan or Conspiracy and Aggressive War,” from which this passage derives.

2. “From the Editors: The Times and Iraq,” Editorial, New York Times, May 26, 2004; Howard Kurtz, “The Post on WMDs: An Inside Story,” Washington Post, August 12, 2004. Also see “Were We Wrong?” Editorial, The New Republic, June 28, 2004. In this last case, the editors expressed “regret…but no shame,” adding: “if our strategic rationale for war has collapsed, our moral one has not.”

3. Gil Hoffman, “Netanyahu to address Britain on Iran,” Jerusalem Post, January 11, 2007. Also see the Remarks by Benjamin Netanyahu at the 2007 Herzliya Conference, Lecture Summaries, January 21, 2007.

4. See Anneliese Fikentscher and Andreas Neumann, “Does Iran’s President Want Israel Wiped Off the Map?” (Trans. Erik Appleby), Information Clearinghouse, April 20, 2006; Juan Cole, “Hitchens the Hacker,” Informed Comment, May 3, 2006; Jonathan Steele, “Lost in Translation,” The Guardian, June 14, 2006; and Arash Norouzi, “‘Wiped Off the Map’ — The Rumor of the Century,” DemocracyRising.US, January 18, 2007.

5. Nazila Fathi and Michael Slackman, “Rebuke in Iran To Its President On Nuclear Role,” New York Times, January 19, 2007; Dariush Zahedi and Omid Memarian, “The clock may be ticking on Iran’s fiery president,” Los Angeles Times, January 21, 2007; and Marie Colvin and Leila Asgharzadeh, “Iran’s strongman loses grip as ayatollah offers nuclear deal,” London Times, January 21, 2007.