by Robert Parry
February 4, 2012
Robert Parry broke many of the
Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and
His latest book, Neck Deep: The
Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his
sons, Sam and Nat.
His two previous books, Secrecy
& Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and
Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also
Exclusive: Just as
happened before the Iraq War, those who want to bomb
Iran are scaring the American people with made-up
scenarios about grave dangers ahead, new warnings as
ludicrous as the “mushroom cloud” tales that panicked
the U.S. public a decade ago, reports Robert Parry.
A weak point in the psyches of many Americans is
that they allow their imaginations to run wild about potential threats to
their personal safety, no matter how implausible the dangers may be.
Perhaps, this is a side effect from watching too
many scary movies and violent TV shows.
But this vulnerability also may explain why the current war hysteria against
Iran is reviving the sorts of fanciful threats to the United States last
seen before the Iraq War.
Since right-wing Israelis and their neocon
allies are having trouble selling the U.S. public on a new preemptive war in
the Middle East, they have again resorted to dreaming up hypothetical
scenarios to scare easily frightened Americans.
Vice President Dick Cheney
from a poster by Robbie Conal
For instance, in a New York Times Magazine
article on Jan. 29 by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman - which
essentially laid out Israel’s case for attacking Iran - Moshe Ya’alon,
Israel’s vice prime minister and minister of strategic affairs, is quoted as
explaining the need to make Americans very afraid of Iran.
“It is, of course, important for Ya’alon to
argue that this is not just an Israeli-Iranian dispute, but a threat to
America’s well-being. ‘The Iranian regime will be several times more
dangerous if it has a nuclear device in its hands,’ he went on. ‘One
that it could bring into the United States. It is not for nothing that
it is establishing bases for itself in Latin America and creating links
with drug dealers on the U.S.-Mexican border.
“‘This is happening in order to smuggle ordnance into the United States
for the carrying out of terror attacks. Imagine this regime getting
nuclear weapons to the U.S.-Mexico border and managing to smuggle it
into Texas, for example. This is not a far-fetched scenario.’”
But it is a far-fetched scenario. Indeed, there
is zero intelligence to support this fear-mongering about such an Iranian
That the New York Times would publish such a
provocative assertion without a countervailing pushback from serious U.S.
intelligence analysts represents the kind of irresponsible journalism that
the Times, the Washington Post and much of the mainstream U.S. news media
displayed during the run-up to war with Iraq.
The fact is that U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded - and the Israeli
Mossad apparently agrees - that Iran has NOT even decided to build a nuclear
bomb, let alone that it would do something as nutty as give one to people
outside its direct control to attack the United States, thus guaranteeing
Iran’s own annihilation (more, on “US/Israel: Iran
NOT Building Nukes.”)
Bergman’s article, which covers nine pages, also manages to avoid any
mention of the fact that Israel has a real - and undeclared - nuclear
The Times might have regarded this as a relevant
point to include both to explain why Iran might feel it needs a nuclear
deterrent and to put into context the actual strategic balance in
Instead, the Times article poses the nuclear
threat to the region as emanating entirely from Iran.
In a New York Times
report on Friday, Ya’alon was back again, pushing the
claim that Iran had been developing an intercontinental missile that could
travel 6,000 miles and strike the United States.
“That’s the Great Satan,” he said, using
Iran’s epithet for the United States. “It was aimed at America, not at
In response to that claim, even the Times felt
obliged to add some factual counterweight, noting that,
“the assertions went far beyond what rocket
experts have established about Iran’s missile capabilities, and American
officials questioned its accuracy.”
There is also the point that such a hypothetical
missile attack on the United States would be detected immediately and ensure
a devastating counterattack on Iran.
‘One Percent Doctrine’
But it should be clear what the game is. Israeli hardliners and American
neocons want a return to former Vice President
Dick Cheney’s “one percent doctrine,”
as described by author Ron Suskind.
That is, if there is even a one percent chance
that a terrorist attack might be launched against the United States, it must
be treated as a certainty, thus justifying any preemptive military action
that U.S. officials deem warranted.
That was the mad-hatter policy that governed the U.S. run-up to the Iraq
War, when even the most dubious - and dishonest - claims by self-interested
Iraqi exiles and their neocon friends were treated as requiring a bloody
invasion of a country then at peace.
In those days, not only was there a flood of disinformation from outside the
U.S. government, there also was a readiness inside
George W. Bush’s administration to channel those
exaggerations and lies into a powerful torrent of propaganda aimed at the
American people, still shaken from the barbarity of the 9/11 attacks.
So, the American people heard how Iraq might dispatch small
remote-controlled planes to spray the United States with chemical or
biological weapons, although Iraq was on the other side of the globe. The
New York Times hyped bogus claims about aluminum tubes for nuclear
centrifuges. Other news outlets spread false stories about Iraq seeking
uranium from Niger and about supposed Iraqi links to al-Qaeda terrorists.
There was a stampede of one-upsmanship in the U.S. news media as everyone
competed to land the latest big scoop about Iraq’s nefarious intentions and
capabilities. Even experienced journalists were sucked in.
In explaining one of these misguided articles,
New York Times correspondent Chris Hedges told the Columbia
Journalism Review that,
“We tried to vet the defectors and we didn’t
get anything out of Washington that said, ‘these guys are full of
Based in Paris, Hedges said he would get
periodic calls from his editors asking that he check out defector stories
originating from Ahmed Chalabi’s pro-invasion Iraqi National Congress.
“I thought he was unreliable and corrupt,
but just because someone is a sleazebag doesn’t mean he might not know
something or that everything he says is wrong,” Hedges said (more
details, at “Iran/Iraq ‘Defectors’ and
More Scary Talk
Even after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the eventual realization
that the fear-mongering was based on falsehoods, President Bush kept up the
scary talk with claims about Iraq as the “central front” in the “war on
terror” and al-Qaeda building a “caliphate” stretching from Indonesia to
Spain and thus threatening the United States.
Fear seemed to be the great motivator for getting the American people to
line up behind actions that, on balance, often created greater dangers for
the United States. Beyond the illegality and immorality of attacking other
countries based on such fabrications, there was the practical issue of
Which is the core logical fallacy of Cheney’s "one percent doctrine."
Overreacting to an extremely unlikely threat can
create additional risks that also exceed the one percent threshold, which,
in turn, require more violent responses, thus cascading outward until the
country essentially destroys itself in pursuit of the illusion of perfect
The “one percent doctrine” is like the scene in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”
as the lazy helper enchants a splintering broom to carry water for him but
then cannot control the ensuing chaos of a disastrous flood.
The rational approach to national security is not running around screaming
about imaginary dangers but evaluating the facts carefully and making
judgments as to how the threats can be managed without making matters worse.
But Israel’s right-wing leadership and the American neocons apparently
believe that the U.S. public is not inclined to rush off into another costly
war if a realistic assessment prevails. Americans might be even less
supportive if they understood that what Israel is actually after is a
continued free hand to launch military campaigns against Palestinians in
Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon.
At more candid moments, that is what Israeli leaders actually indicate.
For instance, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud
Barak told Bergman that the real worry was not that Iran would hurl a
nuclear bomb at Israel but that a nuclear-armed Iran could offer some
protection to the Palestinians and the Lebanese when Israel next decides it
must inflict military punishment on them, as occurred in 2006 and 2008-2009.
“From our point of view,” Barak said, “a
nuclear state offers an entirely different kind of protection to its
proxies. Imagine if we enter another military confrontation with
Hezbollah, which has over 50,000 rockets that threaten the whole area of
Israel, including several thousand that can reach Tel Aviv. A nuclear
Iran announces that an attack on Hezbollah is tantamount to an attack on
Iran. We would not necessarily give up on it, but it would definitely
restrict our range of operations.”
But Americans are not likely to favor getting
dragged into another war so Israel can freely use its extraordinary military
might to pummel lightly armed Arab militants and the surrounding civilian
For such a cause, would Americans be happy to
see gas prices spike, the fragile economic recovery falter, the federal
budget deficit swell, and more American soldiers be put in harm’s way?
Almost certainly not.
So, the propaganda target again must be that
weak point in the American psyche, that tendency to let the imagination run
wild with movie-like scenarios of danger and violence.