Reprinted from Consortium News
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confronts Sen. Bernie Sanders in Democratic presidential debate on Jan. 17, 2016.
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A curious reality about Official Washington is that to have "credibility" you must accept the dominant "group thinks" whether they have any truth to them or not, a rule that applies to both the mainstream news media and the political world, even to people who deviate from the pack on other topics.
For instance, Sen. Bernie Sanders may proudly declare himself a "democratic socialist" -- far outside the acceptable Washington norm -- but he will still echo the typical propaganda about Syria, Russia, Iran and other "designated villains." Like other progressives who spend years in Washington, he gets what you might called "Senate-ized," adopting that institution's conventional wisdom about "enemies" even if he may differ on whether to bomb them or not.
So, you had Mitchell and Holt framing questions based on Official Washington's "group thinks" -- and Sanders and Clinton responding accordingly.
Regarding Iran, Sanders may have gone as far as would be considered safe in this political environment, welcoming the implementation of the agreement to restrain Iran's nuclear program but accepting the "group think" about Iran's "terrorism" and hesitant to call for resumption of diplomatic relations.
"Understanding that Iran's behavior in so many ways is something that we disagree with; their support of terrorism, the anti-American rhetoric that we're hearing from their leadership is something that is not acceptable," Sanders said. "Can I tell you that we should open an embassy in Tehran tomorrow? No, I don't think we should."
In her response, Clinton settled safely behind the Israeli-preferred position -- to lambaste Iran for supposedly fomenting the trouble in the Middle East, though more objective observers might say that the U.S. government and its "allies" -- including Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey -- have wreaked much more regional havoc than Iran has.
"We have to go after them [the Iranians] on a lot of their other bad behavior in the region which is causing enormous problems in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere," Clinton said.
Yet, how exactly Iran is responsible for "enormous problems" across the region doesn't get explained. Everybody just "knows" it to be true, since the claim is asserted by Israel's right-wing government and repeated by U.S. pols and pundits endlessly.
Yet, in Iraq, the chaos was not caused by Iran, but by the U.S. government's invasion in 2003, which then-Sen. Clinton supported (while Sen. Sanders opposed it). In Yemen, it is the Saudis and their Sunni coalition that has created a humanitarian disaster by bombing the impoverished country after wildly exaggerating Iran's support for Houthi rebels.
In Syria, the core reason for the bloodshed is not Iran, but decisions of the Bush-43 administration last decade and the Obama administration this decade to seek another "regime change," ousting President Bashar al-Assad.
Supported by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni powers, this U.S.-backed "covert" intervention instigated both political unrest and terrorist violence inside Syria, including arming jihadist forces such as Al Qaeda's Nusra Front and its close ally, Ahrar al-Sham and -- to a lesser degree -- Al Qaeda's spinoff, the Islamic State. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Hidden Origins of Syria's Civil War."]
The desire of these Sunni powers -- along with Israel and America's neoconservatives -- was to shatter the so-called "Shiite crescent" that they saw reaching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. Since Assad is an Alawite, a branch of Shiite Islam, he had to be removed even though he was regarded as the principal protector of Syria's Christian, Shiite and Alawite minorities. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Did Money Seal Saudi-Israeli Alliance?']
However, while Israel and the Sunni powers get a pass for their role in the carnage, Iran is blamed for its assistance to the Syrian military in battling these jihadist groups. Official Washington's version of this tragedy is that the culprits are Assad, the Iranians and now the Russians, who also intervened to help the Syrian government resist the jihadists, both the Islamic State and Al Qaeda's various friends and associates. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Climbing into Bed with Al Qaeda."]