Gonzalo Lira: A Thought Experiment – Iran

By Gonzalo Lira, a novelist and filmmaker (and economist) currently living in Chile and writing at Gonzalo Lira

A whole bunch of American ships are headed to Iran, including one aircraft carrier. Some claim this deployment is “normal”, while others think it might be the first move in a U.S. offensive against Iran, either actual or diplomatic.

From the Iranians’ point of view, there’s only one way to look at this deployment: As another provocation.

American leadership—educated at the best schools and colleges, multi-cultural up the wazoo—don’t have a clue why Iranians feel beseiged. They have no idea why Iran acts the way it does. They don’t even realize that they don’t understand Iran’s motivations.

There has been a complete lack of imagination, in America’s dealings with Iran—and that failure of imagination is why things are so fucked up in the Middle East. (Is there any other way to characterize the whole mess? False politesse does not capture the sheer fucked-up-edness of the situation.)

Iran: The failure of imagination has been Iran.

So perhaps a thought experiment is in order—for once, let’s try looking at the world from the Iranians’ point of view:

To begin: Let’s imagine some obscure Brazilian terrorist attacks China, way on the other side of the earth, literally. This Brazilian and his minions blow up the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, in one fairly spectacular terrorist attack.

We’re in America—this shouldn’t involve us. But as a consequence of these terrorist attacks, the Chinese—screaming for vengeance—deploy their sophisticated weapons and their millions of soldiers, and invade Canada. Supposedly, this Brazilian terrorist who attacked China is hiding out in the Great White North—which is why the Chinese are invading Canada.

We Americans express genuine sympathy for the Chinese’ loss. We decide to actually help the Chinese find the Brazilian terrorist! We even decide to help the Chinese with their conquest of Canada! That’s how much we repudiate this cowardly terrorist attack.

But then, out of the blue, the Chinese leader—in a carefully choreographed official speech—declares our country part of an “axis of evil”. And with no provocation on our part—indeed, after we have helped the Chinese conquer Canada—they vow to wipe us out at the slightest provocation, presumably with nuclear weapons.

Then, the Chinese start to claim that Mexico, of all countries, was involved in the terrorist attacks against China. Nevermind that the Mexican leadership hates and fears the Brazilian terrorist. Nevermind that the Brazilian is an ultra-Catholic, who hates and distrusts the Mexican leadership for being born-again Baptists. Nevermind that there’s no rhyme or reason for this alleged collusion.

The Chinese use trumped up and extraordinarily dubious “evidence” to back up this claim of collusion—they even claim that the Mexicans are developing WMD’s that they intend to use on China, which stirs the Chinese populace into a frenzy.

Then, the Chinese illegally invade Mexico, and outright occupy the country.

Our nation now finds itself besieged: There are a hundred-thousand odd Chinese troops in Canada to the north, and another couple of hundred thousand odd Chinese troops in Mexico to the south—all of them armed to the teeth. And back in China, they’re hysterically screaming for “regime change in America”.

We in America know what the Chinese really want—they want our food. We’re the world’s breadbasket. And while China has plenty of food, they want more. They are unwilling to make their citizens pay fair market prices for food—so they want to capture our food, so they can feed their citizens at our expense.

Meanwhile, Venezuela—a country one tenth the size of the U.S. in terms of territory and population—is hell-bent on regional hegemony. Venezuela consistently antagonizes and provokes the U.S. with their undeclared nuclear weapons.

But what can we do? The Chinese support Venezuela with weapons, billions of dollars in aid money, and the full weight of their political and military power. Venezuela provokes us constantly, to the point of stationing three of their submarines—loaded with nuclear missiles—not fifty miles off America’s East Coast. In easy striking distance of America’s major cities.

Meanwhile, back in China, the woman who is the current Foreign Secretary not only openly hates us, she once said that even a minor skirmish with Venezuela would result in the U.S. being “wiped off the face of the map”—meaning, presumably, a nuclear response.

We have no nuclear weapons. But we do have a whole lot of hate for both China and Venezuela—justifiable hatred.

America’s history (in this thought experiment) is inextricably tied to China’s foreign policy. Back in 1953, China forcibly overthrew the democratically elected government of Dwight Eisenhower, in a covert operation known as Operation Ajax.

Then, China installed their puppet-dictator, Richard Nixon, who ruled for 25 years with an iron fist, using the SAVAK—Nixon’s feared secret police, trained by Venezuela’s Mossad security agency, and China’s own CIA.

China and Venezuela kept the puppet-dictator Nixon in power for 25 years, using SAVAK to kidnap, torture and kill American freedom-fighters. Great American men and women were lost. People like Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson, Gloria Steinem, David Halberstam, Woodward & Bernstein, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, Paul Newman, Francis Ford Coppola, Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Naom Chomsky, Jonas Salk, Harper Lee, even poor Rosa Parks and countless others were all tortured and/or killed by SAVAK, often with the assistance of Venezuela’s Mossad and China’s CIA.

While the flower of America was being tortured and killed, America’s breadbasket was being raped by Chinese and Venezuelean interests—from 1953 to 1979, they took our food and didn’t pay a dime for it. Or else they “paid” for it by giving their puppet-dictator credit to buy Chinese weapons—weapons which their puppet-dictator then used against American citizens!

Finally, we Americans—after tremendous struggles—managed to overthrow the Chinese puppet-dictator in 1979. (And where did the murderous bastard seek asylum? His patron-state, of course—do we need any more evidence that he was their marionette?)

China declared us a “rogue nation” after we overthrew the dictator who had repressed us so horribly. Since then, 30 years later, the Chinese have been consistently trying to undermine our economy with sanctions and United Nations embargoes.

They’ve succeeded, too—our economy is not a fraction of what it could have been, had the Chinese not had this vendetta against us. They choke our economy, while threatening us with their overwhelming military power, and goad us with the Venezueleans just to annoy and humiliate us.

All because of our resources—the Chinese are so insane to possess what is ours that they will do whatever is necessary to take it away. That is why they hate us. That is why they have interfered unforgivably in our history. That is why they want to destroy our country, and turn it into their “protectorate”—so they can once again rape our land, and take away what belongs to us, and to our children.

They openly say that they want a “Chinese-friendly regime change”. They say they want “moderate Americans” to control our country—but the people they refer to as “moderates” are people who worked for the bloody dictator we overthrew. Our current leaders—members of the America-First/America-Free party, good Mormons one and all—sometimes are over-the-top, no one will deny it: Sometimes they say stupid things. But we trust them. We know they are our representatives—not Chinese puppets, like Nixon and his goons.

The Chinese claim that they invaded Canada and Mexico in order to find this Brazilian terrorist—but with all their power, they still haven’t found him after almost ten years. Was there ever a terrorist? Or was it a false-flag operation? Did the Chinese themselves blow up the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, in order to have an excuse to invade the North American continent? Some of their own people publicly believe that the Chinese government staged the terrorist attacks as an excuse to invade the region—that should tell us something.

The Chinese plan to invade and/or destroy us—that is obvious. So we won’t give them the chance: Instead, we’ll help the Mexican and Canadian insurgents. We’ll give them weapons and money, so we can buy time. Soon, our scientists will develop nuclear weapons of our own: Then neither the Chinese nor the despicable Venezueleans will ever again hold their nuclear sword to our throats with impunity. Soon, we will be able to strike back—and if they provoke us, we will strike back. Even if it means our own destruction.

After all, it’s a thousand times better to die free than to live on your knees. Living under the Chinese-controlled puppet-dictatorship taught us that. We won’t let it happen again.

Here ends the thought experiment—but not the questions.


First of all, the more you think through America’s provocations and interference in Iran’s history, the more you can’t help but be impressed by Iran’s self-control. They’ve played their cards much better than either the U.S. or Israel.

Precisely because of all the foolish, pointless tauntings and provocations by the U.S. and Israel, I think it’s likely that—regardless of what they say—Iran is very busy trying to acquire nuclear weapons. Israel’s and the U.S.’s nuclear taunting guarantees that the only thing that will give Iran’s people and leadership peace of mind is a few dozen nuclear-tipped rockets. And they will in all likelihood acquire them—one way or another. Fear will drive them.

For now, Iran’s strategy of quietly but steadily fomenting insurgents in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine is the only sensible approach Iran can take. It has to keep America pinned down in those two quagmires while it develops nuclear weapons.

Because that’s Iran’s ultimate goal—obviously: From the point of view of Iran’s leadership, any other strategy would be irresponsible and foolish. The Iranian leadership want to protect their population from both the U.S. and Israel. From Iran’s point of view, only the acquisition of nukes guarantees their safety.

However, a nuclear Iran isn’t a disaster—on the contrary: My own sense is, if and when Iran actually acquires nuclear weapons, regional tension will paradoxically ease—think India/Pakistan. And Iran is a far more stable country than Pakistan, with none of the territorial ambitions or frictions.

If and when Iran acquires nukes, the U.S. will realize it can’t fuck with Iran anymore—it has to negotiate. The same conclusion will be arrived at in Tel Aviv.

The danger zone, I think, will be that uncertain period before Iran for-sure has nuclear weapons—in other words, the period we are living in now.

It is conceivable that Israel will stupidly launch a pre-emptive strike, in a misguided attempt to “protect Israel” from Iran acquiring nukes. In fact, I would argue that this is a very possible outcome. This pre-emptive strike will bring about a nuclear retaliation by Iran—they’ll simply buy a few from Russia (which would be happy to sell them, if Israel starts launching nukes helter-skelter), and that will be that for Israel. Israel is smaller, and more concentrated. In any nuclear war, Israel will lose.

Now is the danger-time. And it will be the Americans and the Israelis—not the Iranians—who will pull the trigger on the regional suicide.

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    1. Skippy

      Finance is but one metric or our actions, would you preclude the rest for comfort sake.

      Skippy…is your bank account sacrosanct before all things?


        But you got to admit this blog is one of the most entertaining and well written. Although I still dislike Irani~s, what a great argument. Socrates eat your heart out.

        1. Adam's Myth

          This is wonderful. Best NC post in a while.

          It does miss some obvious points. In the analogy, Venezeula would be one of China’s closest allies, and thus America is constantly provoking China by backing stateless militias encircling and occasionally attacking Venezuela. And America’s local politics would involve occasional public threats against Venezuela and China, further provoking conflict.

          Acknowledging these would improve your credibility, and hence persuasiveness to those who do not already agree with you, without seriously undermining your argument.

    2. wunsacon

      Rather than tell the blogger to “shut up”, consider skipping the article or reading another blog that better fits your narrower interests.

    3. mock turtle

      “stick to finance”

      hmmm finance… oil…war…finance…oil…war…finance…oil…war

      i know theres a connection somewhere

      oh well not to worry

      just remember they hate us cause we are free


      we have God on our side

      more than that no one needs to know…so shut up and watch tee vee

    4. Don

      That is about the dumbest thing I have ever heard, and far from any reality.

      Iran is an Islamic country ruled by Sharia law— laws taken out of the Koran and hadith. Any who do not follow the Islamic religion, as in Saudi, are systematically killed, repressed, marginalized and persecuted.

      Women have no rights, and no freedoms other than stay at home sex slaves. There are NO freedoms in Islam to any one. You go by Islamic Sharia law or you whipped or killed. It is goal of Islam for world conquest, and has been for the last 1400 years. The main tool used is terrorism, just as Mohammad taught in the Koran and what he did to all the villages and towns around him, as freely told in the Koran and hadith, and history says the rest of it to date.

      It is the duty of every Muslim to be at a perpetual state of war with all non-believers. This is the Jihad that all Muslims are committed to or they are to be killed by the closest Muslim at hand for their “non-belief”.

      No one is allowed to question the Koran, or you are killed. You are abide by Mohammed’s teaching of dying for Allah. Yes, suicide bombings as it is known today are all but 100% Islamic motivated and taught.

      What you have in Iran is the most brutal police state on earth along with the Saudi, and 55 other Islamic states are no different. Islam is NOT a religion; it always has been a political movement and government.

      There is nothing you can do to appease Islam other than convert, die, or pay a sky high tax to the Islamic government, that gives NO guarantee of your protection. This is what is taught in the Koran by Mohammed.

      Go read the Koran, in over 529 verses (over 60% of the Koran) all nonbelievers are to killed, cursed, and blood drawn from them, and beheading of the Jews, atheist, and Christians is the preferred method of the slaughter just as Mohammad taught and did himself.

      NOW, you want Iran to have Nukes? I do not think so. You need to go study history, and do some study on Islam. Islam is NOT peace, and never has been from its start 1400 years ago to this date.

      You should go study it out, it is all over the net. Do your home work and get your facts straight and not propaganda.


    5. Stelios Theoharidis

      I would like to see a much more nuanced and historically accurate version of this. This would probably include the role of British oil interests in the narrative, the American Embassy affair, and Iranian support of fledgeling Shia groups in the region. It is hard to tell if Iranian movement to support the US after 911 was genuine, like Pakistan one hand sometimes does not know what the other is doing.

      Due to US and European support of dictators in these states (Iran, Saudi Arabia, ect), what appears to have occurred is these dictators murdered or forced expatriation of moderate progressive citizens of Arab nations. They supported fundamentalist religious leaders to gain a semblance of legitimacy, who subsequently funneled money into groups interested in fundamentalist Islamic states and the expulsion of foreign interests and influences from their respective countries (Muslim Brotherhood).

      The changes that have been occuring in Israel, or their movement progressively to the right appears to have to do with a demographic shift in the country. The evangelicals have long been supporting the movement of Eastern European Jews from the former Soviet Bloc states for some time now. Their perspective towards the Palestinian situation is considerably more hard line than their contemporaries.

      Although Iran has been supporting Iraqi Shia, Hamas, Hezabollah, and other Shia groups within the Arab world, their growing strength has also been buttressed by Israel increasing bellicose stance and Fatah’s corruption. The rather tough situation we have now is that both Hamas, the political leadership in Israel and Iran derive their legitimacy through security and conflict (sound like anyone we know Bushies) not through good governance. In fact that is the only means by which they maintain power because they would be absolutely ineffective administrators of their respective states.

      That being said, the US has a better chance of having peace with the Shia then the Wahabi style Sunni, they are significantly more liberal in terms of democratic rights and womens liberation. And, Israel and Palestine if they could have a peaceful settlement could reap billions on a successful tourism trade. However, when you get your legitimacy from conflict you cannot have interest in peace.

  1. Skippy

    Fully concur, the dead in the head citizens aka consumer rats also known as Americans (of which I am one), can not mentally extend pass the simple metric, my high school history lessons, during which I was looking up some hot chicks skirt.

    Skippy…Americans = good guys – bad guys + shoot on sight = ask questions later = Chuck Norris + Clint Eastwood SQ’ed, and the world is fked up????

    PS. its getting difficult to shop with all this static about GFC and silly places like Iran, really now[!] I’m trying hard to debt myself for the continuation of my species.

  2. anonymous

    Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine a socialist is elected in a South American country with major ports on the Pacific during the cold war. The United States decides to depose the democratically elected president by undermining his government using economic terrorism and then formally, by underwriting a military coup.

    Or here’s another one: imagine a Virginia surveyor and slave-owner joins a group of speculators hoping to cash in big on a large piece of contested property in the Ohio valley. He leads a ‘surveying party’ into the contested territory and helps trigger a war between the natives who live, there, and the British government that administers the property.

    Or, how about this? A group of religious cranks murder all political opponents and take over a nation formerly occupied by Britain and run for several decades by a former cavalry officer allied with the US. The cranks hang gay people for being gay, censor the press, fund terrorism across the globe and openly support the destruction of one of America’s most important allies.

    The world isn’t about to change anytime soon. The idea that Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, and Syria are benign nations only interested in the well-being of their own citizenry is a fiction belied by the historical record.

    There is no democracy in Iran, after their Revolution, and after the murder of the secular moderates. Many in Iran and the region are dedicated to the destruction of the state of Israel. The United States still has the power to intimidate Iran and should.

    1. another anonymous poster

      History says that Iran has not attacked another country in over 300 years. History says that Iran spends less on its military per year than Singapore. That is the historical record.

    2. mock turtle

      to anonymous and AL

      whew that was close

      at first i thought you were going to blame usa for

      overthrowing the duly elected government of chile and installing a murderous dictator

      or stealing panama from venzuela by fomenting a war

      or enslaving a race of people for over a hundred years and then using jim crow to keep them little better than slaves for a hundred more

      or starting a war in nicaragua and financing terrorists to overthrow an elected government

      or committing genocide against native peoples during westward expansion

      just repeat the following words and you will feel better

      my country right or wrong…
      my country right or wrong…
      my country right or wrong…

      america is a great country, but we have committed our share of sins and are far from perfect

    3. Francois T

      “There is no democracy in Iran, after their Revolution, and after the murder of the secular moderates.”

      I don’t recall seeing a democracy in Iran after the deposition of Mossadeh by the US.

      Didn’t see the US insisting heavily on the establishment of a democratic state while the Shah was in power.

      But NOW, we insist on Iran becoming democratic?

      Can you spell h-y-p-o-c-r-i-s-y?

  3. Neil D

    Yes – American foreign policy has been pretty counter-productive for a long time. Blame it on American exceptionalism and superpower delusions of grandeur. Thank goodness no one I know is stupid enough to join the military.

    But let the big boys play superpower games, it’s good entertainment. Someday we might even get to see a nuclear exchange which destroys the middle east and rescues humanity from the religious fanatics living there. How’s that for a silver lining?

    1. wunsacon

      >> Thank goodness no one I know is stupid enough to join the military.

      Many join not because they’re stupid but because the military offers better opportunities than they see around them. Or because they’re (very) young and not cynical.

    2. bhatman

      You’re the stupid one. Military offers a very good life for those who can adapt to it. And most jobs don’t involve a lot of danger. Most Navy jobs are low-risk, for example. Air Force is low risk for most of the technical people (they have a small number of guards and truck drivers who are at risk). Even the Army and Marines can be low risk if you are, for whatever reason, unlikely to see front-line combat. For example, my 90lb niece asked about being an Army nurse or similar health-care worker. Paid education, good salary upon graduation, early retirement, and very little likelihood that she’ll be sent to the front lines. A 90lb woman whose primary training is in healthcare (as opposed to languages or explosives or whatever) is a liability on the front lines, not an asset. Sounds like a good plan to me, I said. Now if she was a 6′ 180lb football-playing boy who wanted to join the Army or Marines, that would be a different story.

      If my niece does take that Army opportunity, you, Neil D, will be payign for her free education, good salary, generous benefits, and early retirement.

  4. Diego Méndez

    Gonzalo Lira,

    impressive post. It’s no coincidence that you are living in Chile. All you down there know what “Chinese” imperialism is about.

    After reading the post, I had to admit to myself: no matter how good relations with “China” are now, no matter how friendly the meetings between our leaders, the day “China” wants something from my country and can take it away from us… it will, whatever the means.

  5. Avg John

    Ridiculous unrealistic good guy vs bad guy assessment.

    Shucks, haven’t the muslims demonstrated throughout their history that they only want to mind their own business and live in peace? A human history of 10,000 years of brutality and war and it’s all America’s fault? If only Iran and Brazil were the world’s superpowers, then the world would be at peace and act in harmony.

    It’s simple really. It’s just human nature. Those that lust for power and control end up in charge. And if you stand in their way or oppose them they will kill you given the right opportunity. It’s the same across all countries and cultures. It’s always been that way.

    There aren’t any good guys and nuclear weapons are just the manifestation of human madness.

    1. DownSouth

      “It’s always been that way.”

      Yes, but does that mean it always has to be that way? Or is man capable of evolving?

      It seems like man can either evolve and find solutions, or he can perish. And I’m not so sure that nuclear proliferation is the leading contender for human self-extinction. There are also the threats of global warming and the poisoning of the oceans, to name just a couple of other top contestants in man’s race to self-annihilation.

      It’s funny you should mention 10,000 years ago, because that’s about the time man discovered agriculture, which allowed him to move away from social organization in small hunter-gatherer groups.

      Your comment signals an adherence to the all-purpose learning theory which Cosmides and Tooby called the “Standard Social Sciences Model” or SSSM. The problem with this theory is that, by itself, it denies learning, development, and cultural change as an open-ended process. It relies almost exclusively on genetic determinism (evolutionary psychology), with everything that has taken place since the advent of agriculture counting for nothing.

      SSSM is in denial of the Axial Age, the era from 800 to 200 B.C. when man started to incorporate on a very large social scale, beginning with the Achaemenid or Persian Empire, followed by the Roman Empire, the Chinese Empire under the Han Dynasty and so forth. This era coincides with the development of a number of world religions—-monotheism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Stoicism—-and some postulate it is the advent of these Axial age ideologies that enabled social cooperation on such a very large scale to take place, beyond ethnic communities. The key to these ideologies is not the supernatural, but the integrative aspect.

      SSSM is also in denial of the shift from traditional religion to modernism as the integrative ideology of the West that occurred with the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason.

      There is of course no guarantee that mankind can navigate itself out of its current morass. But there is also no guarantee of the Armageddon prophesied by the harbingers of doom and gloom either. As David Sloan Wilson has so aptly concluded, “Confront a human group with a novel problem, and its members may well come up with a workable solution.”

      1. Avg John

        Down South,

        I admit to being a little bit cynical and jaded and I wish and pray for peace, but I consider myself a realist.

        I don’t deny that we humans have a noble side. We can empathize, care and show charity. But we also have a dark side. And while the age of enlightenment and 400 years of serious scientific investigation freed us from the brutish daily existence of our ancestors and gave rise to advances in technologies that have made possible supporting a world population of 6.5 billion people, it has also given rise to nuclear arms, conventional and high tech killing apparatus,
        and chemical warfare technologies, along with host of other problems you mention such as water, air and noise pollution, alienation, drug addiction and so on and so forth.

        For enlightened intellectuals with all of the answers, I say show me. Tell me how you get the North and South Koreans to live together, how Palestinians and Jews can live side by side in peace. How will you eliminate notions of Nations-states and borders, do away with property rights, abolish penal and law enforcement systems. How will you deal with the next Hitler, Stalin, Napoleon or Genghis Khan? More than anything, I want to know what sacrifice the intellectuals are personally willing to make. I want to see their plan, not just their complaints. Them first. It always seems to be the “little” people that end up paying the price for their dreams of nirvana and heaven on earth.

        For me, these intellectuals are simply the next competing group in line, that want to assume the same control and power over the populations that they charge the current group in power maintains. Their first order of business, is stirring up the dissent to mobilize the masses to demanding we replace one competing group with another, which always means themselves.

        I am not saying all, but I bet many of the so called peacenics on this site don’t realize that most homeless people are in greater need of someone to grip their hand firmly, look them dead in the eye, and sincerely tell them they are worthy as human beings as opposed to just providing them with a box of canned and dry goods from a food pantry or slopping out food in a soup kitchen. Heck, they don’t even realize that some of the so-called homeless people that they pass by on the streets are actually God’s angels. Where else would God’s spirit reveal itself, if not with the poor and the hungry?

        They don’t know because they lack the humility, experience, and never took the time to find out. Besides, God oftentimes doesn’t reveal himself to the clever and conceited or else they’ve blinded themselves to even such possibilities.

        By the way, I don’t include you in that camp. Even though I don’t agree with some of your ideas, I can and do respect your opinion.

        1. Toby

          Those are important points. The problem is, there are indeed many plans out there, but achieving consensus on them is probably impossible. Right now open and humble discussion is about the best we can manage, as little as that is. In my opinion collapse will happen, globally too, then something will emerge out of the rubble. While we can still talk and share ideas, that’s the only way we have of sowing seeds for a (hopefully) better and more sustainable future.

          In terms of ideas, you might find Bernard Lietaer interesting (google him, and you can hear him on YouTube), and, if you’re able to deal open-mindedly with the wacko side of things, the ideas contained in post-scarcity or resource-based economics offer a radically different way of organising society, including no more nation states, no more government per se, and a bunch of other far out stuff. We are a very long way from realizing such concepts, but only because we are so culturally and spiritually removed from them. That’s my opinion anyway.

      2. RJ

        “Or is man capable of evolving?”

        I think human nature is pretty constant over time.

        The things that motivate people today are pretty much the same as have always motivated people, adjusted for different societies and technologies.

    2. jdmckay

      Ridiculous unrealistic good guy vs bad guy assessment.

      Not really… author’s allegory is about right.

      Shucks, haven’t the muslims demonstrated throughout their history that they only want to mind their own business and live in peace?

      Well, Avg. John, you demonstrate well the result of 50 yrs. propaganda foisted upon US citizens can indeed delude them completely. And given your utterly inaccurate synopsis, said delusions… taken hold, can & do lead to war based on false premises.

      Anyway, “Avg. John” is certainly an apt screen name… at least you got that right.

    3. reskeptical

      “Shucks, haven’t the muslims demonstrated throughout their history that they only want to mind their own business and live in peace? A human history of 10,000 years of brutality and war and it’s all America’s fault?” –Avg John

      Islam was only “invented” around 700 AD. America was settled in … Avg John– very average indeed.

    4. Toby

      “It’s simple really. It’s just human nature. Those that lust for power and control end up in charge. And if you stand in their way or oppose them they will kill you given the right opportunity. It’s the same across all countries and cultures. It’s always been that way.”

      This is only narrowly true. Even countries are recent in human history. The dynamic you describe became truer and truer for human societies after they became sedentary and more complex (post-farming). The vast majority of our time on Earth has been spent in egalitarian societies. That’s what I’ve been reading recently, anyway: “Hierarchy in the Forest”, “Mutual Aid” and “The Ascent of Humanity” to name three sources. It is far from inevitable, but I personally hope a return to our more ‘natural’ egalitarian ways is on the cards. Research laid out in “The Spirit Level” shows clearly how deeply the human animal benefits from fairness and income equality. Fairness is good for everyone, it seems.

      Sadly, people often have very fixed ideas about ‘human nature’, but very few who indulge in this type of barroom debating actually know what they are talking about. It’s a big problem with the internet, which becomes an echo chamber of received wisdoms. We’ve given ourselves a platform in which everyone can divulge their opinions as if they were expert. Most often it is done in a spirit of ‘This Is Right!’ and not ‘is this right?’ Humility is the healthier and more constructive stance, in my opinion.

      There is human nature, of course, but it is most deliciously flexible and malleable. Just have a look at the gamut of our sexual tastes, the fact of suicide, the total dependency of the new born on its care givers, and much else besides, to see how deeply environment influences the behaviors humans are capable of. We are a weird beast.

      1. Doug Terpstra

        “We are a weird [and wonderful] beast.” Indeed.

        Equally self-evident is what you write about spirit, (inspiration often found here at NC): “‘The Spirit Level’ shows clearly how deeply the human animal benefits from fairness and income equality. Fairness is good for everyone, it seems.”

        To me, that dynamic has been proven as effectively as plate technonics from the recent history of New Deal social democracy compared to reaganesque plutolatry-driven, violent kleptocracy.

        What you (and DS, attempter, et al) describe is precisely what all of us need because and are hard-wired for. We see it unfolding in history (in fits and starts) and also know in our bones that it’s already in our genes—the next quantum evolutionary-spiritual leap. Great events require the right circumstances and catalyst, but those are coming fast—the collapse of unsustainable finance and militarism and the ecological/biological survival imperative. It’s an exciting time to be alive.

  6. Richard Kline

    Iran is strategically and materially _irrelevant_ to the US and our interests of and functional value. Why are our policy makers obsessed with the nonexistant then? Irrational, no? No: America and Americans need a designated threat to justify our putative exceptionalism on the basis of standing up to it. It doesn’t matter if the threat is nonexistant, as in this instance. We are great and good because some Other we designate as meagre and bad exists for us to ‘confront.’ This is a psychodrama in short, but something deeply, basally ingrained in the defining myths and narratives of the shared culture which defines our decision space (among other things). There is an historical argument to be made for this position, the kind of thing I have, at times, much concerned myself with.

    There is a problem, however. Since the status of a ‘designated foe’ has nothing to do with the actual behavior of the group involved as opposed to our American need to have such a group _at all times_, it really doesn’t matter what that other group does: nothing could be enough because the reality basis of the assessments is of no relevance to the determination. This leads to really quite delusional, not to say pathological, behaviors, and the justification of extremely vile and lethal actions against those so designated if that happens to be of interest to particular policy makers. You see, it doesn’t matter if Iran or Iranians are a threat or even ‘evil’ because the Great White Finger has been pointed and so they are Evil by definition, no further justification required.

    As you may conclude, I find this process, well, _sick_. Exceptionally so. It’s No Fun to live in a nation sucking up it’s own hypocrisy like nectar on a 24-hour cycle basis. I can’t say this will all end badly, aside from for the many innocents whom we will carelessly ‘collaterally damage’ in demonstrating our exceptional ability to not see them as human beings or even for what they are, but delusions of ordure of this kind seldom end creditably to say nothing of end well.

    1. jdmckay

      ran is strategically and materially _irrelevant_ to the US and our interests of and functional value.

      I don’t know about that: Iran has huge oil, is centrally located thus influential in their sphere, and (if world economy ever recovers from current stall) poised to be major player in Natural Gas.

      Beyond that, for reasons author outlines, Iran (not just Mullahs, the populace as a whole) distrust of western motives is indeed well placed. EG. anti (rather then cooperative) west polices filter out and have their affect.

      Why are our policy makers obsessed with the nonexistant then? Irrational, no?

      Bush’s entire Iraq adventure initiated, advocated, conceived by hardline AIPAC Likudniks… wrapped in PR that was beyond absurd: Feith, Wolfowitz, Pearle et’al… utterly, utterly absurd.

      You talk about American Exceptionalism. But what about Zionist exceptionalism? And what about entire ME policy of US, as expressed through BushCo’s Iraq efforts, conducted/orchestrated… eg. US policy taken over by… Likud/AIPAC ideals which demand denigration of Palestinians to utter sub-human status, and justify mobilization of US military in service of those ideals?

      These guys actually told US public that “Palestinian Solution” ran through Baghdad, as part of the “liberation” sales pitch. The counterfeit Niger-Yellow-Cake schpeel, leaked through Italian intelligence, left documented trail putting Michael Ledeen as the architect of that lie.

      And this f**ker, for decades, has worked (along w/all the others) to move US policy in service of Likudnic insanity which over and over produces the same results: tremendous cost for US in $$ & respect, and continued wealth & perpetuation of Israel as an island forever at war w/it’s neighbors.

      One of he great mysteries to me is, despite the repeated demonstrated destructiveness of US actions as proxy for narrow ideolgical Likud/hardline Zionists… how a very narrow, discredited group of assholes can drive, again and again and again, US policy into a black hole benefiting only the few driving the policy.

      In that sense, there’s a parallel between their efforts and seeming untouchable insulation of US captains of finance:
      * small, unrepresentative group
      * co-opt policly affecting everyone, w/out consensus of those affected.
      * execute said policy to their massive enrichment, and to detriment of all the rest
      * maintain control of levers of power (somehow) so that their influence persists, regardless of results.

      1. DownSouth

        “One of he great mysteries to me is, despite the repeated demonstrated destructiveness of US actions as proxy for narrow ideolgical Likud/hardline Zionists… how a very narrow, discredited group of assholes can drive, again and again and again, US policy into a black hole benefiting only the few driving the policy.”

        I think you give the right-wing Jews way too much credit.

        In the coalition of militarists, in addition to the right-wing Jews, Kevin Phillips in American Theocracy also places the following:

        1) The military industry
        2) The oil industry
        3) Most Fundamentalist Protestants
        4) Most Mormons
        5) Most Missouri Synod Lutherans
        6) Most Eastern Rite and traditional Catholics

        By far and away, the greatest source of foot soldiers for this coalition is provided by Protestant fundamentalist churches.

        1. jdmckay

          With all due respect, the group you mention *supported* the effort, but did not conceive it. It was conceived and executed by who I said. Further, a number of those Likudnic/neo-con architects did have tentacles reaching into the profit parts of the exercise: Richard Pearle comes immediately to mind.

          AIPAC’s influence on these “events” is both covert, laser-beam-focused on those w/levers of power, and ruthlessly effective. And at least as covert (non-transparent) as finance industry’s influence over same in their singular pursuit of US Fed gov’s service to their goals.

          It was AIPAC talking points used by entire Bush admin campaigning for Iraq invasion… across the board.

          And what about Israel’s levelling of Lebanon… “birth pangs of democracy”, and gondaLiza Rice put it… what possible US interest was in service there? And by what international standard could Israel’s actions be justified, given very minor disputes which initiated the whole thing?

          It actually goes much further: in Soviet Georgian incident a couple years ago, which most US/EU press reported as Soviet aggression and supplied “cluster bombs”, it was actually Israeli cluster bombs dropped on South Ossetia, it was Israeli advisers for week prior to the incident directing things. (I’ve got links to all this somewhere).

          And, as far as “support” for Iraq by groups you mention: large reason for that support was utter false propaganda generated by BushCo, disseminated and largely created by group I mention. Or in other words: neo-con likudniks were first cause, others were at least once removed.

          That as a result, as evidenced by many commenters here, perceptions of Muslims, Iranian history etc. is skewed to subjects pounded home by the propagandists through Bush years… just further testament to efficacy of such methods, regardless of moral grounding.

          1. DownSouth


            Oh, I think the effort was conceived before most Jews or their progenitors ever set foot in America, or before Israel was even remotely imaginable.

            The US was a regional power before it was a global power, and it first declared its imperial pretensions with the formulation of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. It forbade a European presence in hemispheric affairs and at the same time paved the way for US interference in Latin America.

            In the latter part of the 19th century Great Britain ceded its imperial role in Latin America to the US who, as Carlos Fuentes explains, “employed the same instruments of economic power, namely favorable agreements for their merchants, loans and credits, investment, and the handling of the export economy of minerals, agricultural produce, and natural products required by Anglo-American expansion.” “A highly privileged local minority” was installed by the US, Fuentes continues, to serve “as intermediaries, both for these exports and for the imports of manufactured European and North American goods.”

            When Mexico’s brutal dictator, Porfirio Diaz, was ousted in the Mexican Revolution in 1911, Francisco Madero was chosen to the presidency in a democratic election. Madero, however, was not friendly to US interests and so the US ambassador to Mexico, Henry Lane Wilson, conspired with the Mexican general Victoriano Huerta in a military coup to overthrow Madero. Madero and his vice president, José María Pino Suárez, were assassinated and Madero’s brother, Gustavo A. Madero, was arrested and tortured to death. “I will teach Latin Americans to elect good men to office,” President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed. Thus began the 80-year rule of Mexico by the PRI party, which the Peruvian poet Mario Vargas Llosa described as “the perfect dictatorship.”

            Military interventions and occupations in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua were all carried out, as Fuentes put it, “in the name of stability, democracy, law and order, and protection of U.S. lives and property (notably those of the great agribusiness of that time, the United Fruit Company).”

            After WWII the United States became a global power. And, as Jonathan Schell observes, “soon in the name of anticommunism the United States was supporting many colonial regimes, including, with notably disastrous results, that of the French in Vietnam.” Before long

            the United States became the supporter and often the installer of murderous right-wing dictatorships on every continent—-a pattern of conduct that, in its brutality and indifference to the will of local peoples, strongly resembled the supposedly rejected European precedent. A short list of such regimes would include those of Shah Reza Pahlavi in Iran, the dictator Saddam Hussein in Iraq (until he invaded Kuwait), the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia, Mobutu Sese Seko in the Congo, Fulgencio Batista in Cuba, Park Chung Hee in South Korea, a succession of civilian and military dictators in South Vietnam, Lon Nol in Cambodia, Suharto in Indonesia, Marcos in the Philippines, the colonels’ junta in Greece, Franco in Spain and a long list of military dictators in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Pakistan. In supporting such governments, the United States was acting in pursuit of both Cold War geopolitical aims and economic advantage: the regimes in question were in general both anticommunist and friendly to American interests.

            When you ask “what possible US interest was in service there?” I believe that ideology trumped interest a long time ago. The logic of war has long eclipsed the logic of politics (interest) and the United States has become a victim of the senseless thing that Clausewitz had once feared: “a complete, untrammeled, absolute manifestation of violence” that would “drive policy out of office and rule by the laws of its own nature.”

          2. Joseppi

            The unholy alliance between the racist Zionist and fantasy obsessed fundamentalist Christians, each using the other for their religious end game and being driven to irrational behavior by their military/industrial Pharisees, with their blatant hijacking US foreign policy in front of a acquiescent sleepwalking US public – has left serious doubts about our future.

          3. Doug Terpstra

            Jdmckay, you and DS seem to be talking past eachother. Your recent history is devastatingly accurate and I’m sure you know there is much more Mossad intrigue in many areas beyond Georgia, including Dubai, Venezuela, and almost certainly the US.

            But what I hear DS saying is that it’s part and parcel of the international elite’s imperial purposes in fueling profitable and powering-consolidating conflict. Zionism itself as a racist construct, with its attendant growing anti-Semitism and religious fanaticism, is a convenient fabrication for their self-sustaining ‘clash of civilizations’, just as it was in World War II by Rothschild machinations. Even the ethnicity of the Jewish race is highly dubious—certainly untraceable to David, with thus broken messiah lineage.

            But his (and Joseppi’s) point about Protestant fundamentalist churches reveals the maddeningly absurd irony in this great end game. Enabling and greasing Israel’s slide toward self-destruction, ‘Left-behinder’ (right wing) “Christians” are hoping and working toward the prophesied immolation of Israel (exc. 144,000 converted Jews) at Har Megiddo (Armageddon), a place between Ariel and Sharon, curiously enough, so that the Prince of Peace can alight on a newly glassified Mount of Olives. Weird, unholy alliance indeed, Joseppi, but as Chris Hedges writes in “American Fascists” nearly half of the American population believes earnestly in this apocalypse. Imagination is a powerful force.

          4. Skippy

            Doug lets not forget the DNA evidence in ethiopia (ouch) and Egyptian monotheism (ddl ouch).

  7. fairul reeza

    Anonymous: ‘A group of religious cranks murder all political opponents and take over a nation formerly occupied by Britain and run for several decades by a former cavalry officer allied with the US. The cranks hang gay people for being gay, censor the press, fund terrorism across the globe and openly support the destruction of one of America’s most important allies.’?

    note that the Republicans in Texas (as of last week) are all STILL calling for banning homosexuality, despite the Supreme Court’s striking it down way back when in Lawrence vs. Texas; Washington has been ‘funding terrorism’ across the globe – from Latin America to Asia Pacific – for ages, press freedom in the days of Fox Network? puh-leez; and of course talking about a former cavalry officer, heck, there was an actor in Washington for goodness sake!!

    i’m not one for or against the other, but if it takes a tyrant to overthrow another, who’s to say which is better? the one that the people power put in place or a foreign power’s?

    cue: Hamas winning a democratic election, and the West’s rejection of that victory. i’m not necessarily for Hamas’ policies, but if the people have spoken, doesn’t that say something for how they feel about the sh*thole they’re in? and who put them there. why should we reject their opinions and emotions, just because it doesn’t tally with ours? sitting in the comfort of our lazy boys instead of the constant threat from a nuclear invader.

    i agree with Neil’s comment: ‘Someday we might even get to see a nuclear exchange which destroys the middle east and rescues humanity from the religious fanatics living there. How’s that for a silver lining?’

    but note that there are some who say the same thing about the US re: religious fanatics. baby Bush actually said God spoke to him, remember?

    but all this misses the point: it was a thought experiment, and from we’ve seen in the comments did what it was meant to do. nice write up Gonzalo. Kudos Yves for having it in.

  8. Bill Smith

    Every 6 or 8 months the US swaps out Carrier Battle groups in the Middle East and this kind of talk crops up.

    Just wondering:

    “This pre-emptive strike will bring about a nuclear retaliation by Iran—they’ll simply buy a few from Russia (which would be happy to sell them, if Israel starts launching nukes helter-skelter), and that will be that for Israel. Israel is smaller, and more concentrated. In any nuclear war, Israel will lose.”

    What happens to Iran under this scenario?

  9. anonymous

    Meanwhile, the unthinkable isn’t just being considered, it’s being advocated. The steady drip-drip-drip of casualties coming out of Afghanistan has indeed prompted a rethinking of US ROE. Turkey, Iran, and Russia are being sized up in a very serious way.

    I frankly doubt whether Obama intimidates anyone. Which is really sad, because I don’t doubt his willingness to go the full monty in the ME or anywhere else. The aggressive pursuit of suspected terrorists around the globe and the drone strikes confirm Obama isn’t afraid to spill blood.

  10. gordon

    To a large extent, what actually happens in Iran is irrelevant. “Iran”, “mullahs”, “Greens” “fundamentalists” and the other buzzwords are counters in a US domestic political game which you can play without even knowing where Iran is or any of its recent or ancient history. It’s fundamentally about messages which do or don’t “play in Peoria”.

    That being the case, there is no reason why Iran (the actual country) need be involved at all. Computerised visual special effects are now so good that a convincing documentary and/or “news” videos about a pro-American coup in Iran could easily be made and portrayed as the real thing. The President who did this would be famous and popular, regardless of what actually happens in Iran (the country). He could take credit for a huge foreign policy coup, and do it at the most effective political moment.

    Or if a darker message is desired, “news” about what happened when the Israelis pre-emptively “attacked” Iran could be created, for a somewhat different impact. The ending of the story could be adjusted according to political requirements.

    There would need to be some cooperation by the news media, of course, but they have proven to be remarkably cooperative over Iraq and Afghanistan, so this would just be going one step further down an already established path of cooperation with Govt. They are fundamentally in the entertainment business anyway, and broadcasting faked-up “news” would be easier to control and more convenient in lots of ways.

    This strategy would be far cheaper than what is actually going on (a picture of an aircraft carrier is still cheaper than an aircraft carrier) and totally open to manipulation according to political need. Best of all, there would be no requirement to interfere with the actual foreign countries at all, which would be wonderful for them.

    1. gordon

      Of course Hollywood would love it.

      Barbie: Hon, don’t you think Ahmedinajad is starting to look a bit like Nicholas Cage?

      Ken: What? Sweetie, of course not! How could he? This is news, sugarplum, from Iran!

      Barbie: Well, it’s just when the beard comes loose, he sort of reminds me of Nicholas Cage in “FaceOff”.

      Ken: You really do have an imangination, don’t you sweetheart!

  11. Extinct Species

    Interesting thought experiment and I don’t really disagree with its point but…

    For the thought experiment to have a more precise alignment Canada and Mexico would have to be enemies of the United States and the US and Mexico would have fought a bloody 8 year war to a stalemate, a war started by a ruthless Mexican dictator of questionable sanity, a dictator with a strong historical and cultural animosity of the US. And in invading Mexico China would have overthrown this dictator and the minority sect he represented and basically replaced it with a power structure much more friendly to the US and eventually even prone to be strongly influenced or even dominated by the US. So while China was still there in force the US would remain rightfully apprehensive but the long run results of the invasion would greatly favor it being beneficial to the US.

    Furthermore, China would be getting bled, bogged down in Canada as the terrorists they are after had effectively used the regions tribal cohesions, geography and refuge in Alsakastan, a poor unstable nuclear power and pseudo ally of the Chinese, to thwart them.

    Thought experiments can be fun. The one you did with the Middle East becoming more stable after Iran got nuclear weapons was quite pollyanna. Here’s a different thought experiment using that scenario. Iran gets the bomb so Saudi Arabia and Egypt feel obligated to go nuclear which in turn leads to Turkey and Syria doing the same. As the process plays out nuclear tensions rise and somewhere along the way someone pulls the trigger.

  12. billwilson

    The US military industrial complex needs a continuous state of war to “feed itself”. So far it has been very successful with the US now spending 50% of world military expenditures, even without a real enemy.

    The problem of course is that with a massive budget deficit someone in Washington may get it in their head to try to cut the defense budget (and not just unemployment benefits). So expect the MIC to keep vigorously stirring the pot to ensure it does not get strangled in the deficit cutting rampage when it starts.

  13. Dan Duncan

    Keeping in sync with the prose of Gonzalo Lira, Filmmaker-Novelist….

    This post is really, really, really bad. It’s, it’s like you know… “a bowling ball or a watermelon, hollow.”

    I think the feedback mechanism between Gonzalo Lira, Novelist-Filmmaker and his audience is broken.

    My hunch is that the breakdown unfolded like this (and no, this is not an insipid “thought experiment”):

    A long, long time ago, Gonzalo Lira, Novelist-Filmmaker, desperately wanted to impress friends and family with his imagination. Friends and family responded with “OMG, Gonzalo Lira, Novelist-Filmmaker, this is so imaginative!” [They did this, not because they were truly impressed. No, they responded this way because they just wanted “IT” to stop.]

    Gonzalo Lira, Novelist-Filmmaker is anything but dumb, however. He knows there is a certain “hollowness” to their responses…so he adapts.

    Unfortunately, the result of this adaptation is not enhanced creativity. Rather, the result is to simply tailor his imaginings toward touchstone issues that he knows will strike a chord with his audience. This way, both Gonzalo Lira, Novelist-Filmmaker and his audience are spared: Gonzalo Lira, Filmmaker-Novelist gets to spew his 2 dimensional renderings and his audience no longer has to feign appreciation. They get to appreciate the work of Gonzalo Lira, Novelist-Filmmaker, not for any artistic value or insight into world affairs, but rather because these “works” simply validate a worldview. [Consider the previous comments on Lira’s post: Nobody actually read this turgid pile of shit. They just new it confirmed their worldview, so they tip their hats.]

    As always, I am here to help…so, to Gonzalo Lira, Novelist-Filmmaker please consider:

    Your over-use of metaphors is not a demonstration of a superior imagination. Quite the contrary. Metaphors are shortcuts by the brain to avoid the creative process. They are fast and convenient, as they simply take a pre-existing template and modify accordingly. [Here’s a simile for you: Metaphors are like maps.]

    Unfortunately, as is typical when people get lost in their metaphors, you mistake them for the real thing.

    You need to stop writing this utter nonsense (your commentary on U.S. Constitutional Jurisprudence and fascism was beyond abysmal)….

    Instead, spend some time with Jorge Luis Borges and read: “Del Rigor en la Ciencia”.

    Seriously, Gonzalo Lira, Novelist-Filmmaker…you have a real Map-Territory Relation Problem.

    So, repeat after me:

    The Map is not the fucking territory.
    An abstraction derived from something, is not the thing itself.

    Hell, Gonzalo Lira, Novelist-Filmmaker, maybe you could turn the preceding into a poem. Then, you could be Gonzalo Lira, Novelist-Filmmaker, Poet, Philosopher, US Constitutional Law/Foreign Policy Expert!

    [If you (whomever you are) hate what I just wrote, know this: The feedback mechanism between you and me is broken. I don’t want you to like it.

    But also know this: You actually read what I wrote. You didn’t read what Gonzalo Lira, Novelist-Filmmaker wrote. You tried. But you didn’t make it all the way through. You know it and I know it. But the real question is: Does Gonzalo Lira, Novelist-Filmmaker know it?]

    1. Gonzalo Lira

      “Never get down in the mud to wrestle with a pig. You’ll only get dirty, and the pig will enjoy it.” —G. B. Shaw

    2. wunsacon

      I hear “the map is not the territory”. But, how did a casual armchair analyst like myself predict in early 2003 that:
      – No WMD would be found in Iraq.
      – The initial invasion would be a piece of cake.
      – The Bush team, specifically because of their overconfidence, wouldn’t “mind the store” and would make enough mistakes to allow a civil war to materialize.

      How many other people knew “the map” but got these predictions wrong? So, consider: Maybe knowing “the map” can lead to you “seeing the trees” instead of “seeing the forest”.

      Also, I’m not sure what “the territory” is in this context. Comprehensive knowledge of international relations comes from reading, reading, and reading the various maps. Reading history and news. Anyone can do it. And that’s what most professional analysts do anyway, because they’re not omnipresent. Everyone relies on reports created by someone else.

      >> Unfortunately, as is typical when people get lost in their metaphors, you mistake them for the real thing.
      >> Quite the contrary. Metaphors are shortcuts by the brain to avoid the creative process. They are fast and convenient, as they simply take a pre-existing template and modify accordingly.

      Kinda like reducing Lira’s post to a “map-vs-territory” comparison. Eh?

  14. jerry harrison

    After trusting Yves and giving the author of this article the benefit of the doubt and spending three minutes to start reading it, I come away really wishing I had those three minutes of my life back.

    That was just insipid.

    1. K Ackermann

      Hey, it was only 3 minutes, and it was much better thought out than Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN.

      What did you think when he held up that vial of air?

  15. laosuwan

    Iran (Persia) is an occupied country. It is a facist state whose government murders its opposition and tortures those who oppose the mullahs. Women and gays are stoned to death for adultry or simply existing. Irans leader is an Islamist hostage taker and believes his destiny is to bring the return of the medhi. This is what shapes the world view of Iran’s government.

    The leftist clowns in Chile, protected from the reality of islamo-facism by the Andes and Pacific, have this strange fascination with islam as a victim even though it is Islam that victimizes all it vanquishes. The leftists in Chile will give the keys to their country to the Palestineans, never realizing they are actually Jordanians acting a role to vanquish Israel, and find their arts, museums, equality and freedoms gone one day, just as the Europeans are beginning to discover.

    1. DownSouth

      The use of propaganda to demonize the putative “enemy” is a tactic of manipulation as old as the hills. Democratically elected leaders as well as dictators have found it a most effective tool to control and mobilize their populations.

      To wit:

      From the earliest days of the struggle each belligerent also carried on an internal war of ideas, coupled with popular persecution. To begin with, “enemy art” must be banned from the stage, the museum and the concert hall. More than this, it must be shown through scholarly books that enemy thinkers had long ago created the viciously aggressive character of the enemy nation. History backed up the charge: to the Allies, the Germans had always been barbarian raiders; they had destroyed Roman civilization and overrun the helpless Occident, their eternal motto: “Might Makes Right.” Hegel, Fichte, Nietzsche had glorified either the conquering state or the conquering superman, in Nietzsche’s words applicable to both, “the blond beat of prey.”

      The Germans had a corresponding case, in some respects more tenable: the French, though long since decadent, were pursuing their obsessive aim to dominate Central Europe. In their palmy days, it had been their playground; invasion after invasion had ravaged the small helpless states, kept them poor, underpopulated, and divided—-made them the laughing stock of the rest of the world. Slowly, from Frederick the Great to Bismark, nationhood had developed and had triumphed at Versailles in 1871. This legitimate union of German peoples into a German national state had created in France a breed of monarchists, nationalists, imperialists, anti-Semites, revanchards—-all rabid militarists who believed that breaking up Germany one more time was essential to both the well-being of France and the success of their several factions at home.

      England had naturally joined in. The age-old policy of meddling in continental affairs, always against the strongest, most advanced nation, was aimed at dominating the world by sea power and trade. The German character, noble, courageous, sincere (and pioneering in science and techne) had good reason to despise the decadent French and the English nation of shopkeepers, as Napoleon called them. In this joint betrayal of their best traditions—-to say nothing of the nuances of truth—-the leaders of opinion on both sides were rehearsing (so to speak) what happened less than a dozen years later, when writers, artists, and academics attacked or defended the renewed aggressiveness of Fascist, Communist, or National-Socialist regimes.
      –Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence

  16. Jackrabbit

    For anyone will knowledge of the current difficulties with Iran, this thought experiment adds little.

    Yes, Iran has some historical grievances but if Iran is such a peaceful nation that is justified is fearing the actions of outsiders why does it act in such an antagonizing manner? Did holding American embassy people for soo long add to their security? Does threatening Isreal, taking British soldiers hostage, etc. add to their security?

    Those who would have us better understand Iran fail to understand the difficulties of working with a theocracy, and glide over the inherent danger in allowing a theocratic regime to hold nuclear weapons.

    1. Skepticus Maximus

      I think there were two main reasons the Iranians held the American hostages.

      First, they were worried the US would invade them to re-install the Shah, and the Iranians wanted a bargaining chip/deterrent. Second, the US had frozen/confiscated $billions in Iranian assets and the Iranians wanted the money back. I personally think the Iranians were pretty stupid and amateurish with that move, but you need to remember the time and the context. Also, while Americans didn’t really understand Iran at the time (and still don’t), Iranians didn’t really understand the US at the time either. A lot of Iranian leaders later publicly regretted the hostage crisis, saying they had acted emotionally and in haste.

      As for the British military people they held, I think they assumed they were spies.

      Here’s a simple thought to keep in mind: All countries make mistakes, sometimes big ones. The thing about the US is that, especially over the last century or so, it was so much bigger and more important than the other actors on the world stage, that US mistakes tend to have enormous consequences. Something to keep in mind when the bought and paid for politicians in Washington start banging the drums for this or that.


      1. Skepticus Maximus

        As for threatening Israel, the threats have been going both ways for a while now.

        Also, it should be remembered that while Iran has never invaded ANY of its neighbors for hundreds of years (it’s had few wars during the modern age, and all of these wars were defensive, you can look this up), Israel has invaded every single one of its neighbors, and currently holds an entire population of people under military occupation.

        I would really suggest that people do some due diligence and learn the history and facts about the middle east. It’s a region far away, but what happens there tends to have enormous effects on the world. And it is really inexcusable that so many people, especially in the US, are so clueless. This clueless attitude has been very very costly to the US.

        I like to believe, for example, that a more informed populace would not have been so easily tricked by Bush/Fox News/Neo-Cons/etc, into invading Iraq for WMDs that weren’t even there, at enormous cost in terms of human lives, treasure, and international respect and prestige. Basically, this was a lose-lose-lose for the US, cheered on at first by people who really thought it was the patriotic thing to do, and who mostly now want it to all go away like a bad dream.


    2. DownSouth


      ”Those who would have us better understand Iran fail to understand the difficulties of working with a theocracy, and glide over the inherent danger in allowing a theocratic regime to hold nuclear weapons.”

      I don’t think it’s that black and white.

      As John Gray explained in Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern:

      No one did more in laying the intellectual foundations of radical Islam than the Egyptian thinker Sayyid Qutb. Born in 1906 in a small village, he moved to Cairo to live with an uncle, where he obtained his first job as an inspector in the Ministry of Education. His true vocation was as a writer. The several volumes of Quranic commentary he produced in prison are still widely read among Islamic militants. Influenced by Abdul Ala Maududi (1903-79), a Pakistani ideologue who first used the concept of jihad or holy war in an explicitly political context, Qutb became the thinker of the Muslim Brotherhood. He was executed by Nasser in 1966.

      The central them of Qutb’s writings is the spiritual emptiness of modern western societies. Like many Americans, Qutb saw the US as the paradigm of modern society. He lived in America for several years. He failed to notice that it is one of the most religious societies in the world.

      Starting with de Tocqueville, many perceptive visitors have noted the intense religiosity of America. According to the standard, social-scientific theory of advanced, knowledge-based societies, America should be following Europe in becoming steadily more secular; but there is not the slightest evidence for any such trend. Quite to the contrary, America’s peculiar religiosity is becoming ever more strikingly pronounced. It has by far the most powerful fundamentalist movement of any advanced country. In no otherwise comparable land do politicians regularly invoke the name of Jesus. Nowhere else are there movements to expel Darwinism from public schools. In truth, the US is a less secular regime than Turkey.

      To see America as a godless society is extremely curious, but it is of a piece with Qutb’s monocular view of the world….


      Qutb’s writings are filled with horror of the West, but he borrowed many of his ideas from western sources…. [T]he revolutionary vanguard Qutb advocates does not have an Islamic pedigree…The vanguard is a concept imported from Europe through a lineage that also stretches back to the Jacobins, through the Bolsheviks and latter-day Marxist guerillas such as the Baader-Meinhof gang.


      The intellectual roots of radical Islam are in the European Counter-Enlightenment. In this current of thought, which began to take shape in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the rational skepticism of Enlightenment thinkers such as David Hume led to a rejection of reason itself. J.G. Hamman rejected rational inquiry in favour or religious revelation. Kierkegaard defended religious faith in terms of subjective experience. J.G. Herder rejected the Enlightenment ideal of a universal civilization, believing there are many cultures, each in some ways unique. Later in the nineteenth century, thinkers such as Fichte and Nietzsche glorified will over reason.

      It is the fact that radical Islam rejects reason that shows it is a modern movement. The medieval world may have been unified by faith, but it did not scorn reason. Its view of the world came from a fusion of Greek rationalism with Judaeo-Christian theism. In the medieval scheme of things, Nature was believed to be rational.

      The Romantic belief that the world can be reshaped by an act of will is as much a part of the modern world as the Enlightenment ideal of a universal civilization based on reason. The one arose as a reaction against the other. Both are myths.

      In the nineteenth century, Romanticism was a German protest against the French claim to embody universal civilization. In the early twenty-first century, Romantic ideas have returned as part of the resistance to American universalism. Al Qaeda sees itself as an alternative to the modern world, but the ideas on which it draws are quintessentially modern. As Karl Kraus said of psychoanalysis: radical Islam is a symptom of the disease of which it pretends to be the cure.

  17. jdmckay

    Excellent article, historically & factually close enough, and your allegories aptly represent the realities you attempt to portray.

    Very, very good article. Unfortunately, I suspect the US mindset is impervious to influence towards a factual accounting. Rather, given that mindset, powers that be are more likely to put you on some “terra’ist” list…. swooped up in some airport, and shipped to some black site for “processing”.

    The mighty wheels of Peace, freedom etc. at work.

  18. LeeAnne

    Dan Duncan,

    I, for once agree with you, up to the point where I stopped reading Lira’s post. I would ordinarily say to you about that (to myself to be sure), why would you waste so many words, so much time and energy on something that can just be bypassed or dismissed out of hand. For me, it was just plain ‘aw com’n this is getting tedious –what’s your point? And who cares anyway. He overstates his case –needs a good editor.

    But I find your analysis entertaining and interesting on the source of Lira’s method, reasoning and inspiration; especially the creative chicanery part. Accurate or not isn’t for me to say but it has added a new prospective to the arrows in my creative arts criticism quiver, if you know what I mean.

    Thank you.

  19. chad

    “This pre-emptive strike will bring about a nuclear retaliation by Iran—they’ll simply buy a few from Russia (which would be happy to sell them, if Israel starts launching nukes helter-skelter)”

    That statement is positively ridiculous on so many levels. First of all, any preemptive strike by Israel would be non-nuclear. Second, if Russia sold Iran nukes to retaliate with it would guarantee Russia’s destruction.

    This article is drivel and costs Yves credibility in my eyes. Did she personally allow this on her blog or was it approved by another moderator?

    Yves, I can’t speak for all of us but I’d rather go a few days with no articles while you rest and get well than to read things like this here.

    1. Skepticus Maximus

      You are quite correct. You cannot speak for all of us.

      The bit in the post about Iran buying nukes was weak, I agree with you on that.

      But as a thought exercise, the post, on the whole, was very interesting and illuminating. And reading the reactions the post engendered was equally interesting and illuminating.


  20. saladin

    I’m afraid the analogy breaks down at the point where hostilities begin

    1.) Attack on Iran
    2.)Hezbollah fans out and deftly, asymmetically dismantles US interests worldwide


    1.) Attack on America
    2.) Elderly people wave teabag signs as DoD’s tenuous supply lines collapse

  21. alan drake

    Another “thought experiment” –

    Imagine that there was a superb blob on auto mechanics, written by someone who had vast experience in the field and began to notice that a lot of Toyotas were showing up with bad braking systems. His insights into the problem and his whistle blowing helped create a larger stir of outrage and education among his readers, who began to more clearly understand that there was a bigger problem than most people imagined – and sure enough, this blogger was part of a larger movement to educate people to the wider problem, and maybe in some small ways helped produce some degree of solution to it over time.

    But this blogger also had other intests as well as auto mechanics – he race car driving. So when there wasn’t much in the news on auto mechanic issues, he started writing about NASCAR, with strong opinions on his favorite drivers – and invited other guest writers who agreed with him to also post articles about his favorite driver.

    After a while, all of the smart auto people who had originally been drawn to his blog started reading the NASCAR articles – but many were fans of other drivers. Soon, the comment section became a brawl among people arguing for their favorite driver – and those who were fans of drivers other than the blogger’s favorite driver began finding it annoying when they would voice their opinion and be smeared and ridiculed and drowned out by the fans of the blogger’s favorite driver – and besides, if they wanted to discuss NASCAR, there were MUCH better places to do that – although none of them were great forums for auto mechanic issues – the original specialty of the blog.

    In time, when vitally interesting auto mechanic news was breaking, most all of the fans of other drivers had long gone, taking their unique perspectives and contributions on auto mechanics with them. What remained was a bunch of fans of this one particular NASCAR driver having an echo chamber orgy, and the discussions on mechanical issues were the poorer for it.

    Thus the tale of Naked Capitalism – a great blog on finance, turning into a pale parody of DailyKos.

    Happy snarking!

    1. DownSouth

      alan drake,

      Ah yes, spoken like the true believer in classical economic theory, as if economics can somehow, supernaturally, be separated from the power that exists both within and without nations. As Jonathan Schell put it:

      The early champions of the free market, most of them British, had in fact looked to industry mainly to create the wealth of nations, as the title of Adam Smith’s classic book had it, not the power of nations, which had been the preoccupation of their mercantilist predecessors. The advocates of laissez-faire declared the independence of economics from state power. (The eventual coining of the word “economics,” identifying a distinct realm of human activity subject to its own laws, was one sign of their faith in that independence.) The market worked best, the worldly philosophers of the late eighteenth century believed, when the government kept its hands off it. Classical economics, in fact, “had not place for the nation, or any collectivity larger than the firm.”

      Smith’s successors proceeded even further in this line of thinking. In the early nineteenth century, the most prominent champions of the market, including the British champions of laissez-faire Richard Cobden and John Bright, contended that free trade, by breaking down or ignoring national boundaries, naturally tended to foster world peace. The market, they ardently believed, was a solvent of national units and a pacifier of national conflicts. “I see in the Free Trade principle,” Richard Cobden said in a speech in 1846, “that which shall act on the moral world as the principle of gravitation in the universe, drawing men together, thrusting aside the antagonism of race, and creed, and language, and uniting us in the bonds of eternal peace.” …. An unbroken thread of faith in free trade as an abettor of peace runs through the entire tradition of liberal internationalism, surviving many disappointments and continuing, if in attenuated for, to this day.


      However, events did not proceed as the liberal imperialists expected—-neither in Asia nor in Africa nor in the Ottoman Empire. The economic arrangements forced upon those lands did not strengthen and liberalize their governments but undermined them and drove them, one after another, toward collapse. The Egyptian government, for example, accepted loans from Europe, spent the funds on large but unproductive public projects, and, when these failed, sought to keep up payments on the loans by raising taxes on the poor, who grew discontented and rebellious. The imperial powers then were faced with what seemed a drastic choice: between withdrawing entirely and imposing direct rule. They chose direct rule.

      By the turn of the century, most of the territories of the globe had been incorporated by imperialism into the European vortex. Any move anywhere—-in the heart of Africa, in the Bay of Bengal, in the Strait of Tsushima—-by any of the great powers now seemed to the others likely to upset a global balance of power and to require a countermove. The conservative British politician Lord Curzon spoke for his whole generation of statesmen when, after a long journey to the Middle East in 1890, he wrote, “Turkestan, Afghanistan, Transcaspia, Persia—-to many these names breathe only a sense of utter remoteness or a memory of strange vicissitudes and of moribund romance. To me, I confess, they are the pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a game for the dominion of the world.”
      –Jonathan Schell, The Unconquerable World

    2. anonymous

      Thanks for a fair and accurate summary of Yves’ drift away from her area of expertise. Yves is a bona fide authority on finance. We read her blog for her expert, often extremely accurate summaries and assessments of matter financial and for the other financial experts she invites to post here.

      This guest post is precisely the sort of diary we might expect to find at Daily Kos. The fact Yves evidently respects this writer raises real questions about her judgment. She’s doing enough damage to her own brand by welcoming the anti-American cranks posting on this board. The guest post is something we might expect from Juan Cole. The difference being that Juan Cole is an authority on the ME.

      I’ll give her a pass this time and put her bad judgment down to her cold.

      1. Chief Hawk

        Hear that Yves? Some guy too scared to identify himself is putting you on probation for a lapse of judgment. I guess you’ll never know if he stops reading this blog.

        Why is it a lapse of judgment? Well for one thing, according to Mr. Anonymous war is good, and not waging every war that could be waged is Anti-American. People who argue that engaging in a particular war in a particular way at a particular time are “cranks” according to our Anonymous. Also, obviously, trillions of dollars of oil in Iran and trillions to fight a war there have nothing whatsoever to do with finance.

        The fact that Gonzalo is a kind of expert in the area too and lives in Chile and has a South American perspective is also irrelevant.

        In the future, Yves, please only discuss the balance sheets of fortune 500 companies in the most abstract terms. We wouldn’t want to put a human face on any of this.

      2. borkman

        Wow, talk about arrogance and presumption.

        Let’s see….no substantive rebuttal of a single point in Lira’s post.

        The basis for the criticism? That it’s like Daily Kos. Oh, and it’s “anti-American” and it appears by extension, that anyone who is “anti-American” is a “crank.”

        So what your statement really says is:

        1. You have a strong ideological bias

        2. You therefore don’t like the post, but are unable to dispute its substantive points

        3. You attack the author and Yves

        I seem to recall that our host points that out as an ad hominem attack, generally the refuge of people who can’t muster a legitimate response.

        And who put you in charge of the thought police, BTW?

      3. Skippy

        OOhh here we go with the anti-American rubbish, that is the most asinine form of argumentation, try expanding that sediment next time.

  22. Bonesetter Brown

    My Iranian co-worker left the country during the Iran-Iraq war. He was a teenager, and his family walked out of the country. His parents left because the regime was literally driving around, picking up kids off the street, and sending them to the front, never to be seen by their families again.

    The regime there is nuts. A different kinds of nuts than what we have here in the US.

  23. jdmckay

    For all commenter’s expressing sentiment Yves shouldn’t post “nonsense” such as this article, I would suggest a sharpening of historical acuity w/reading of CIA FOIA release, from ’99 on, of what actually happened through Mossadeq overthrow >> Shah puppet gov. They are archive here, among other places.

    Beyond that, the rather incredible exploitation of Iran oil by British through 1st 1/2 of century leading up to Mossadeq’s election… if you all can blow off effects of 50 yrs under such circumstances, followed by 30 more of Shah/CIA thing… I dun’o, doesn’t speak to well to US’ collective sense of justice.

    Lots of good books out there detailing the British era in Iran. I’d recommend James Bill’s book as good starting point: well documented w/verifiable historical information, and paints a comprehensive picture utterly unknown to westerners, but living history in Iran.

    I would also point out, more recent US policy interventions have been equally dismal. En brief…

    * we (literally) chose Sadam, as counterweight to Khomeni, for incremental US regional “interest” furthering, supporting Sadam through 10 year Iraq/Iran war, all based on foundation of Khomeni result from what author of this article describes. It’s just so.
    * During that time, we… the US, provided Sadam w/all the chem/bio seeds for development of Sadam’s chem/bio weapons, something somehow forgotten in Bush’s PR campaign for operation “Iraqi Freedom”.
    * Prior to Desert Storm I, Iraq was most prosperous, best educated, highest standard of living in the region.
    * Sadam’s Kuwait invasion was based on repeated Kuwait angle drilling, across border into Iraq, an issue Iraq had raised repeatedly at UN… only to be derailed by US. By any international legal interpretation, Iraq had legitimate claims.
    * Bush I’s mobilzation and PR campaign to “stop Sadam” in Kuwait was based on lies, well known to Bush I admin:
    – “Incubator baby” thing was a lie
    – Spokes people called before Senate/Congress to make the case, were all plants:
    – Satelite photos showing Sadam’s military poised on Saudi border, used to propaganize Sadam’s ambition to invade Saudi Arabia, were forgeries: there were no Iraq troops on the border.

    Given a US ME policy, going back decades, clandestinely lieing about real conditions in order to gain public support for unackowledge motives, to the extreme undermining of local stability… not to mention subjugation of their sovereignty…

    You lie to your wife/husband, there’s consequences. Same w/your kids, boss, whatever. Pretty basic stuff.

    Doing the same, on massive scale, as execution of a foreign policy… particarly to subjugate a nation’s people/resources (as we did in Iran, the British did their prior): you ignore this… whether from simple ignorance or deliberate selfishness, whatever… the results should be obvious.

    And they are the results we currently have.

    1. bhatman

      You don’t start a war over angle drilling. You angle drill back. Is there no oil in Kuwait? And if reverse angle drilling doesn’t do the trick, there were other ways to deal with the Kuwaitis. For example, get together with a some Kuwaiti malcontents (there are malcontents in every society), arrange for them to initiate a coup d’etat, rush to their aid so that the coup succeeds, then pull back afterwards so that no one can accuse Iraq of imperialist intervention in other countries internal affairs. If Saddam and the rest of the Iraqis were too stupid to figure this out, then they deserve what they have gotten.

      And quit posting this bleeding-heart liberal pap. If true justice were to be done in this world, just about everyone would be hanging from a rope. And if we view “lusting in the heart” as just as bad as “lusting in the flesh”, which is what Jesus preaches, then everyone, without exception, would be hanging from a rope. My point? My point is that all talk of right and wrong is nonsense, the only meaningful reason for bashing or not bashing Iran is our own self-interest.

      1. jdmckay

        And quit posting this bleeding-heart liberal pap.

        (…) which is what Jesus preaches,

        (…) My point is that all talk of right and wrong is nonsense, the only meaningful reason for bashing or not bashing Iran is our own self-interest.

        Right. I think you’ve summarized state of things nicely… a “typical American”.

  24. Jim Haygood

    Events have already overtaken Gonzalo Lira’s essay. Yesterday, by overwhelming margins (99-0 in the Senate), Congress passed tough sanctions against Iran, which O’Bomba will almost surely sign.

    Curiously, this event is being soft-pedaled in the U.S., although it’s getting plenty of play in the British and Israeli press, as well it should. After all, it’s a de facto declaration of war on Iran.

    Here is one article about sanctions, from the Jerusalem Post:

    “As American enterprises are already forbidden from doing business with Iran, the bill sanctions those foreign companies that sell Iran gasoline or help develop its energy sector, and forces financial institutions to chose between using American banks or ones connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.”


    It’s interesting to consider the legislative backdrop on the day the sanctions were passed:

    “It came the same day as the House passed a resolution calling for the immediate release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, on the four-year anniversary of his abduction.

    “We continue to offer our support to the family of Gilad Shalit and to the people of Israel,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement issued after the resolution was approved. “Congress stands united behind a future of peace and security for the Jewish state.”

    All well and good, no doubt. But what about the peace and security of the AMERICAN state? In my opinion, this provocative, overreaching piece of special-interest legislation pushes the U.S. dangerously closer to a war that it doesn’t need, can’t afford, and can’t win. A hopelessly energy import-dependent country like the U.S., kicking an Islamic oil producer in the teeth?

    You’d think we might have learned something from Oil Shock II in 1979.

  25. KFritz

    The overall analogy is excellent, but on 1 point it’s inaccurate and on another dangerously incomplete.

    Inaccurate. The Shah nationalized Iran’s oil and stopped exporting the profits. It even participated in the 1973 oil embargo. His family WAS famously corrupt, but Iran under the Shah was more prosperous for all classes than it it has been since. The Shah did oppress his political opposition brutally, but most Iranians were not directly effected. The entire country WAS effected by the corruption, but that hasn’t changed one whit.

    Incomplete–the account of the Shah’s overthrow and the theocracy that followed. Iranians did work hard and sacrifice to send the Pahlavis packing. Two very different factions were responsible, religious and secular. The religious authorities were furious at the Shah’s secular state and their own reduced importance. The secular faction wanted a democratic and/or socialist regime. Most of the heavy lifting to topple the Shah was done by the secularists, but the great masses of religious Iranians could only be turned against the shah with the help of the clerics. So the Revolution was an alliance with very different visions of a new Iran. The highly organized clerics, with a unified vision of theocracy, efficiently co-opted the ad-hoc secularists. A better analogy for the new regime would have been a takeover by an alliance of our own right-wing religious fanatics backed by a military motivated by order and bankrolled by corporate interests.

    Nice work stirring up the adhominem crowd!!!

    1. Gonzalo Lira

      Thank you for the compliments.

      As to your points that my analogy is incomplete (others have pointed out that I didn’t include the war with Iraq, etc.): You’re right, of course. But if I’d included every detail, I would have made the piece unwieldy. I’m just trying to get the point across, of what the situation looks like from the other side of the bridge.

      As to the ad hominem crowd: What can I say. They hate me ’cause I’m purdy.


    2. bhatman

      >Iran under the Shah was more prosperous for all classes than it it has been since

      A lie. Go read the reports of travelers from that period. There were famines in Iran now and then in rural areas under the shah. People starved, the government did nothing to help them. Same story in Morocco or Mauritania or various other dictatorships in Africa today. Famines still occur, the corrupt governments do nothing. You have to dig a little and use some imagination to learn out about these things. Whether we should smash the Iranian government or not depends on our own self-interest. But they have definitely improved the lot of the very poor, you can’t fault them on that score.

      1. KFritz

        If you use the word ‘Lie,’ it’s a good idea to present documentation. At this point, your statement is ad hominem slander.
        Since by implication you’re defending the current Iranian theocracy vs. the Shah, are you a fundamentalist who loves theocracies, Mr. Bhat?

      2. KFritz

        PS. I was wrong on one count. The ayatollahs, mullahs, and their acolytes are all much more prosperous thanks to the Islamic Republic.

        ‘Heaven is where there are no Mullahs.’
        -Prince Dara Shikoh (executed by clerics)

  26. Justin Weleski

    Great post. There were certainly a few notable omissions (the Iran-Iraq war would be at the top of the list), but it’s a type of post that I think needs to be written and, more importantly, needs to be read. Americans (and nationalists of all stripes) have the unfortunate tendency to judge certain actions based on the actors involved, not on the actions themselves. To quote Orwell (who was recently quoted by Glenn Greenwald),

    “All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

    This type of post encourages readers to step out of their familiar nationalistic mindset and instead view world events from a different perspective. It’s too bad that “the narrative” has been so deeply ingrained into the minds of so many that they cannot even bring themselves to understand why the Iranian people (and the Afghans, and the Iraqis, and the Pakistanis, etc.) think and behave as they do.

  27. Alan Wynnewood

    Lira creates a narrative, which is his vocation. The narrative is naive. We didn’t invade Iraq because al Queda. We invaded it because Sadam would not, pathetically, give up his ambitions over Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The political opportunity to actually invade was afforded the Bush administration by the 9/11 attacks and thus unstable fearful public opinion. Afghanistan became a mistake. Public opinion was focussed on al Queda. Once we bombed the Taliban out of northern Afghanistan, it was a mistake to do more. We should have left it at that… brute retribution, and then come home. But then we would have had to explain Iraq to the US and world public truthfully in real-politik terms. The public can’t handle that.

  28. sgt_doom

    The USA and Israel, working on behalf of the multinationals, wish to steal Iran’s resources (#1, oil, #2 radium, etc.).

    It’s really as simple as that!

    And it’s really as amoral and unethical as that.

  29. Jim Haygood

    “Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), never at a loss for colorful words, said “This [Iran sanctions] bill has teeth, real teeth, great big nasty sharp teeth that are finally going to force businesses and banks around the world to choose between access to the American economy and financial system, or business as usual with Iran’s theocratic dictatorship.”


    Oh, the hubris! Dictating to the rest of the world that they must choose between ‘access to the US economy’ or trade with Iran — what if they choose the latter?

    As best I recall, Ahmadinejad gained office via an election. I guess KongressKlowns like Ackerman aren’t accustomed to dealing much in the realm of facts.

    AIPAC has finally won the legislative victory it’s been pushing for years; a war fleet is steaming toward the Persian Gulf; and it’s gonna be a long hot summer.

    Ugh. I feel sick. ‘Got gold?’ he croaks from his sickbed.

  30. Rich

    In order for this exercise to work, you need to have a population that maintains some form of empathy. That has been conditioned out of the U.S. population very effectively over the years. There’s a lot of hate out there. Americans aren’t going to care until they themselves are hurting. That day will come.

    My own stance has always been: if they’ll do it to them, they’ll do it to us sooner or later. Because, despite the blabbing of pundits far and wide, we are them and they are us, differences aside.

    1. wb

      My compliments on an excellent post, Gonzalo Lira.

      I think it’s worth noting how deep the roots of this present crisis are. Iran has no reason to be sympathetic towards Britain, British Petroleum, Israel, USA, or the CIA, quite the opposite, their defiance and hostility is more than justified, why should they just roll over and submit to being raped once again ?

      Americans seem generally rather weak on history and geography. Perhaps check out some of the dirty dealing that went on, long before there were any nuclear weapons to play with, for example, Jack Philby


  31. Eff

    the thought experiment is legitimate.

    it makes a lot of unprincipled people uncomfortable, which they spam with talking-point based automated responses.

    Bravo Yves for engaging the reader with challenging yet legit pieces rooted in abstraction, even though it makes the FOX-NEWS segment clearly seeing RED.

  32. Blurtman

    I say that we do not stop with Israel, but we continue to reconstitute other ancient countries that ceased to exist thousands of years ago. Let’s reconstitute Phoenicia and see what type of trouble that causes when those who claim to have descended from the ancient Phoenicians dispossess the Israelis, Syrians and Lebanese people who have lived on the land for centuries. And get a PR campaign going that can coin pithy phrases like “Land without a people, and people without a land.” Yes, that’s the ticket.

    1. wb

      What a cool idea ! that sounds like a real fun game. How about reinstating the Achaemenid Empire ?


      Reminds me of a tv interview I saw where a Pennsylvania shop keeper was asked about Iran and replied ” Those people are still in the Stone Age, it’ll take thousands of years before they become civilized “, hahaha, and this little flash-in-the-pan American Empire is so ‘civilized’ ? after just 200 years ? Such hubris.

      Or how about reinstating the Ottoman Empire ? Or, maybe, everybody should offer apologies to everyone else, for their monstrous behaviour, down through the centuries, and we could all embrace and start over, and wake up from the nightmare of history and it’s wretched karmic consequences ?

  33. Eff

    Fritz:”A better analogy for the new regime would have been a takeover by an alliance of our own right-wing religious fanatics backed by a military motivated by order and bankrolled by corporate interests.”

    -> as opposed to what, “religious fanatics backed by a military NOT motivated by order, and NOT bankrolled by corporate interests???”

    1. KFritz

      The military could be motivated by greed or vainglory. Or just the desire for power. See “Latin America.” To seize power the religulous right would probably need help and/or collusion fr/ the corporate controlled mass media.

  34. Tkatz

    It seems that the radical lefties always act by the same assumption, 1)It’s always our fault. 2) if we’ll only act differently all our problems will go away.

    Iran calls for the destruction of the big Satan ( aka the US) and the small Satan (aka Israel) since the beginning of the Islamic revolution. The Islamic fanatics just wants to see the west burn, Why? because it opposes their way of life, because the wests expansions threatens the mind set of the Islamic tyrants’s minions, and because Islam preaches for doing so.

    The prophet Mohamed said ” I was ordered to fight the people until they believe in Allah and his messenger”

    I’ve noticed that many people here are repulsed by Fox news,
    so how about a short clip form Al-Jazeera :

  35. Francois T

    For all among you who just “don’t like”, “hate” or whatever negative view one may harbor on Iran, it would be a good exercise to, at the very least, listen to those who really know the Middle East.


    Pay particular attention starting at 4:46 minutes. It’s about Iran and nuclear weapons.

    There is a snippet starting at 6:36 that should also be required viewing.

    1. Gonzalo Lira

      Good interview. Liked Baer’s line about torture being all about political intimidation, not about intelligence. Thanks.


  36. dcb

    Iran was a democracy. the elected officials wanted to nationalize the oil industry. the CIA had him killed and installed the Shah. After years of oppression under the shah the only surviving non government organization was religion. hence they were the most sutied to take power. The rest is history.

    This script has happened over and over. we don’t like it when they get in the way of our industry making profits. we kill the person who does that. we support a corrupt system. the only functioning structures then become more radical and when the puppet is gotten rid of it back fires on us.

    How many times have we seen this same script. the rise of islamo fascism may be directly tied to our surrpot of corrupt dictators who jail and torture the opposition. In saudi the government buys off the mullahs by supporting terrorism.

    We did business with the puppet dictators in Pakistan and actively hurt a democratic India because they wouldn’t bow down to US business interests. We created the nuclear mess that Pakistan is today. We created the mess that iran is today. we created much of the mess in latin america. After all we assignated allende (sp)democracy we didn’t like and installed Pinochet who killed many thousands. Much of the world has good reasons to hate us, and fear us. We talk about liberty and democracy but we get rid of them and install puppets when they don’t do what we want.

    we send our Jobs to a totalitarian china because it suits our business interests, but hurts us in the long run. Sadly the majority of Americans don’t want to really see what their leadership is doing around the world. Nobody wants to see themselves as the bad guy, it is human nature.

    1. DownSouth

      Francois T,

      Great stuff.

      I especially like the phrase Baer coined “culture of dishonesty” as well as “I don’t know what these guys are on.”

  37. i on the ball patriot

    Imagine you have the flue, ringworm, and aides, you feel nauseous, and you are in a big hairy vagina with three bald ravens named Pernicious, Vanilla and Slate. It is misty and raining outside the vagina, and in the haze their is a big stiff indiscernible red white and blue object that appears to be threatening and it fills you with a sense of foreboding and fear. Pernicious raven says, “Don’t worry its only a movie, you can watch it for free.” Vanilla raven says, “Its just a rerun, but we will have to charge for it.” And Slate raven says, “Its the big scamerican dick that’s been fucking me up the ass longer than I can remember.”

    You have a choice; you can go back into the vagina, kill the ravens, or come out and face the big stiff indiscernible red white and blue object.

    What would you do?

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  38. Jack Parsons

    The unsaid thing here is why the Iranians need nuclear power: it’s not for bombs, it’s for electrical generation. Iran’s oil is almost all on the Iraq border, under the feet of Arabs. The Iraq/Iran war was Saddam attempting to steal that oil. With us in Iraq, it’s even more compelling that they need alternative sources of energy. We are sitting there threatening to steal their oil. End of story.

    More items:
    The Iranian power structure has been changing from religious organizations owning the major capital industries to the Revolutionary Guard taking over. That’s right, the “Iranian Praetorian Guard” now owns large chunks of Iranian industry.

    About aircraft carriers: Iran has a pile of ship-killing cruise missiles they got from Russia. There is no counter to these things. An aircraft carrier is now a floating deathtrap.

    About nuclear bombs: we gave them a nuclear bomb design with a little flaw, in a “mistakenly” leaked laptop. Their guys looked at it and said, “nice design except for that one little thing the yanks changed in a really amateurish way”. So, that’s how we gave them new bomb technology.

  39. Jack Parsons

    Yves, thank you for bringing in new blood. You don’t want to turn into Zero Hedge.

    Next, please find someone who can go into details about drug money and Wall Street. So many things don’t make sense without drug money at the center. For example, flash trading makes no sense: are they just laundering money?

  40. Bernard

    the rot in America is deep. all the zombies believe what they are told. There is no organized opposition. these are smart well funded lunatics in charge. the rot will have to collapse upon itself.

    to allow some “fernier” to say America is bad is “unAmerican.’ lol

    but it works and it has worked for so many years now, thanks to the American Pravda and Izvestia and their minions in the churches. Living in the South, it has been an interesting time. to watch you family and friends and neighbors buy the easy pablum being sold, rather than think for themselves, is really frightening and eye-opening. the PR is fantastic and very very effective. as i didn’t buy their stuff, always believing in “show me the money, Honey.!”

    what is really sad is the potential wasted on hate, bigotry and war.

    America has been sold, using the Cross and the Flag, to the purveyors of lies.
    well done, very well done.

  41. richardmclaughlin007

    The Harsh Reality of Drug Addiction richardmclaughlin007 — January 18, 2009 — after 11 months of sobriety from drug addiction, in 7 short days this man hits the depths of despair and insanity.


    This video was shot in Vancouvers downtown eastside by the narrator it is quite extreme, It shows how common place and and readily available drugs are and how people can succomb to a extreme physical reaction from lack of sleep, nutrition and dehydration. This video was made for many different reasons, one being educational the other as mentioned earlier it’s common place here in Vancouver, in any other city or town in North America this man would have recieved immediate medical attention but here in Vancouver both the police and ambulance just drive by. If you do not belive me come on down and see our little human circus slash “HARM REDUCTION EXPERIMENT”
    This man was spotted two hours later sleeping on a concrete curb as his pillow.
    Both the narrator and producer of this video have had spent many years struggling with addiction and have spent hard time in Vancouvers “NOTORIOUS” downtown eastside.
    Today they have escaped and are clean and sober and now dedicate there lives to those who still suffer from “THE HARSH REALITY OF ADDICTION”

  42. VGK

    the most thought provoking article on Iran I have read in a while. Of course, the US media is completely impotent of writing anything thought-provoking at this stage, and who reads / views them any more these days anyway…

    Thanks, Gonzalo! I wish some idiots in the US Gov actually got a copy of this. Of course, with their lobotomized brains, their only reaction will be similar to that guy, who wrote “Stick to Economics” (I bet he is either in the current or from the previous administration — neither is worth a dime)…

  43. Friedman's Ghost

    The way I see it is the US has a couple options.

    We could begin to remove our military presence from around the world. We could have most of our people back in the US within five years. Simply leave it all. No more to use the military for economic interest, geopolitical interest, humanitarian interest. The military could simply be for defensive pruposes only. This would be more in line with the original founders thinking.

    Another option would be to actually use the weapons systems we have with extreme malice. This idea of creating “coalitions” be damned. We more than have the capability to have Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea and anyone else for that mater to be comepletly eliminated. We could tell the Afghans and Paks “We want Bin Laden in 24 hours or we will be left with no choice but to remove you from the planet.” Of course, this is not a great option since we would like have to have a serious war with China/Russia/Europe.

    Option one sounds best to me but I am open to #2.

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