The drums of war with Iran will be beating increasingly loudly in the three months leading up to AIPAC’s policy conference early next March. The Republican candidates for president (with the exception of Texas Rep. Ron Paul) will try to outdo each other in professing devotion to Israel coupled with calls to inflict more “crippling sanctions” on Iran, while pledging to keep the war option “on the table.”
The White House will dispatch deputies throughout the country to assure Democratic donors that the president is as hawkish on Iran as any Republican and that the war option is on his table, too.
The AIPAC conference itself, with more than half of Congress, the president, and members of his cabinet in attendance, will be all about the Iranian threat. Speaker after speaker will claim that Iran is on the verge of possessing nuclear weapons that will be used to finish the work Hitler began. (See this typical AIPAC speech by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), which hits heavily on the Iran/Holocaust theme.)
As I noted in a column a few weeks ago, the Iran war claque is comprised almost entirely of neoconservatives and right-wing “pro-Israel” activists and opinion leaders (from AIPAC and its associated organizations), joined by politicians seeking campaign contributions.
For a politician, being an Iran hawk can be very lucrative, while favoring diplomacy is a sure ticket to AIPAC purgatory. (Every candidate for the House and Senate must fill out an AIPAC questionnaire on attitudes toward Iran and the Palestinians. Providing the “wrong” answers or not responding means trouble.)
Writing in Salon last week, Gary Kamiya, longtime executive editor of the publication, noted that the people promoting war with Iran are many of the same people who led the charge into Iraq.
Kamiya asks how it is that anyone would pay any attention at all to people who not only were wrong about Iraq but fixed the intelligence (e.g., former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith) to get the bloody result they wanted. Of course, Kamiya knows the answer:
If American politics did not contain an enormous blind spot, no one would pay any attention to what these discredited ideologues have to say. The Iraq war they championed turned out to be one of the biggest foreign-policy disasters in U.S. history. Their ignorant and Islamophobic view of the Middle East is as breathtaking as their bland willingness to commit America to yet another ruinous war against a Muslim country, this time one four times larger than Iraq and with more than twice as many people. They have a demonstrated track record of complete failure.
Yet these incompetent militarists are still taken seriously. And the reason is simple: They purport to be supporters of Israel. In American politics, you can get away with even the most cracked war-mongering as long as you claim to be “pro-Israel.” And the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card for anything having to do with Israel is the Holocaust.
Kamiya also addresses the awful irony in the pro-war claque’s use of fear of a second Holocaust as a rationalization for war. That is because there is no evidence whatsoever that Iran’s development of a nuclear arsenal, if it even chooses to develop one, would physically jeopardize Israel. A regional war sparked by an attack on Iran, on the other hand, almost certainly would.
No country in history has ever committed national suicide in order to destroy another. And Israel, with 200 nuclear weapons and air, sea and land launchers, could easily destroy Iran if it were attacked.
Listening to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s rhetoric and watching the mysterious explosions that keep occurring near Iran’s nuclear sites, it has to be clear to the Iranian leadership that a nuclear attack on Israel would destroy Persian culture forever, not to mention the lives of tens of millions of innocent Iranian people. Against that is the absurd argument by the neocons that Iranians are innately suicidal, driven mad by their faith.
The Holocaust argument is absurd and offensive. Israel is here to stay and Iran knows it. Iran also knows, as we need to learn, that Israel’s ostensible fear of an Iranian nuclear attack is simply the understanding that a nuclear-armed Iran would limit Israel’s regional hegemony. At the moment, Israel has a free hand to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants to (like kill Iranian scientists with impunity or blow up suspected nuclear sites). But it would not be able to do all of these things, at least not as easily, if Iran had a nuclear arsenal.
As for a Holocaust, the main threat to Israel from Iran would come from the regional war that would inevitably follow any Israeli (or U.S.) attack on Iran. Every major Israeli city is within range of tens of thousands of Hezbollah’s missiles. How many innocent Israelis would die in a missile onslaught produced by Netanyahu and Barak’s obsession with maintaining Israeli hegemony? How many is it worth?
A war with Iran would end any possibility of Israel ever achieving peace with the Muslim world or any semblance of security. Forever. The dream of a secure Jewish homeland, a dream that took 1900 years to achieve, would be over.
It is hard to imagine that any Jew would wish that on Israel. But neocons are, to put it politely, an odd bunch, driven by hatred of Muslims rather than love for America, Israel, or anything else.
I’ll let Kamiya conclude this piece:
It is understandable that a people who suffered one of the most horrific genocides in human history would commemorate it, and vow never to allow it to happen again. But history is filled with ugly ironies, and sometimes the reaction to a trauma ensures that it keeps happening again.
A young Polish Jew named Ruth Grunkraut and her mother were shipped to Bergen-Belsen. Grunkraut’s mother died just six days before the Allies liberated the camp. Before she died, she told her daughter, “You must live. You must live for me.”
The annals of the Holocaust are filled with this same message: You must live.
An attack on Iran will be carried out in the name of the victims of the Holocaust. But that attack, rather than saving the Jewish state, will sound the death knell for it. Israel and its American supporters owe more to the millions of human beings whose last prayer, before their deaths, was that their children live.
In the name of the victims of the Holocaust and, even more, of their descendants, this war must be prevented.