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We've Seen All This Before

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"What happened [in Nazi Germany] was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it...

"To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it... Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, 'regretted'..."

Milton Mayer
They Thought They were Free .

First, the Busheviks warned of the growing threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb. But when they ran that flag up the pole, few in the media and the public were found to salute.
 So now, we're told that the Iranian government is training and sending lethal weapons to the Shiite "insurgents." And so, in his press conference last Thursday, George Bush warned the Iranians that "there will be consequences for people transporting, delivering ... highly sophisticated IEDs [improvised explosive devices] that kill Americans in Iraq."  This is just fine with Dick Cheney who, according to McClatchy newspapers, is eager to attack Iran and is winning the struggle with the diplomats to convince Bush.

That an attack on Iran would be an unmitigated disaster seems not to trouble Bush and Cheney, who steadfastly refuse to take counsel from the "reality-based community." First of all, Iran is a country with twice the area and four times the population of Iraq, and with an intact and well-provided military. Next, the Iranians reportedly have advanced missiles at the ready capable of sinking a billion-dollar aircraft carrier and bottling up the Strait of Hormuz, through which passes a fourth of the world's supply of petroleum. Furthermore, China, an ally of Iran, obtains a significant portion of its petroleum from Iran and will surely not sit still for this. And China, if sufficiently provoked, can dump its dollar credits and embargo its exports to the US, which will surely bring on a depression that would make the thirties pale in comparison.

And what of the rest of the industrialized world? They have seen the US violate international law by launching two unprovoked wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq. Would they tolerate a third? Contrary to the Bushite megalomania, "the outside world" is not helpless. Even though the US military budget is greater than that of all the rest of the world combined, the United States can be brought to its knees without a shot being fired. (See my The Vulnerable Giant). An attack on Iran just might be the final straw.

When Bush and Cheney fed us a pack of lies to justify the attack on Iraq – the aluminum tubes, the WMDs, the Saddam/al Qaeda alliance, the African uranium -- the mainstream media, including the "newspapers of historical record," The New York Times and The Washington Post, swallowed them whole. And when Colin Powell presented these lies to the UN Security Counsel, the mainstream media was unanimously gullible.

The Editorial response of The Los Angeles Times was typical:

Piling fact upon fact, photo upon photo Wednesday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell methodically demonstrated why Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein remains dangerous to his own people, Iraq's neighbors and, potentially, the Western world.

And the Washington Post:

Mr. Powell left no room to argue seriously that Iraq has accepted the Security Council's offer of a 'final opportunity' to disarm. And he offered a powerful new case that Saddam Hussein's regime is cooperating with a branch of the al Qaeda organization that is trying to acquire chemical weapons and stage attacks in Europe.

So now it is starting all over again: unsubstantiated allegations against the next victim-state, as preface to the next disaster. "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me – you can't get fooled again." (GWB). Unfortunately, it appears that the mainstream media might be fooled again.

If so, then once again we have refused to heed Santayana's oft-quoted warning: having failed to learn from history, it appears that we Americans are about to repeat it.

As I reflect upon the behavior of the mainstream media prior to the Iraq war, and perchance prior to the pending attack on Iran, I am reminded of William L. Shirer's account of German public opinion and the part of the Nazi press in shaping it in August, 1939, the month preceding the attack on Poland and the outbreak of World War II. Is Shirer sending a warning to us today?

You be the judge.

"In Berlin ... a foreign observer could watch the way the press, under Goebbels' expert direction, was swindling the gullible German people. For six years, since the Nazi "coordination" of the daily newspapers, which had meant the destruction of a free press, the citizens had been cut off from the truth of what was going on in the world... For Germans who could read English or French, there were occasionally a few copies of the London and Paris journals available, although not enough to reach more than a handful of persons. (Shirer: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, 563-4).

In Berlin, on August 10, 1939, Shirer wrote in his diary:

How completely isolated a world the German people live in... A glance at the newspapers yesterday and today reminds you of it... Whereas all the rest of the world considers that the peace is about to be broken by Germany, that it is Germany that is threatening to attack Poland... here in Germany, in the world the local newspapers create, the very reverse is maintained ... What the Nazi papers are proclaiming is this: that it is Poland which is disturbing the peace of Europe: Poland which is threatening Germany with armed invasion.

Shirer then quotes headlines in the German press:

"Complete chaos in Poland – German families flee – Polish soldiers push to the edge of the German Border!" (Berliner Arbeiterzeitung, August 26, 1939)

"Whole of Poland in War fever! 1,500,000 men mobilized! Uninterrupted troop transport toward the frontier!" (Voelkischer Beobachter, August 27, 1939)

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Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. Partridge has taught philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The (more...)

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