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Lessons From the U.S. Stance Towards Iran

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     Prior to the military invasion of Iraq in 2003, the government and media, for whatever various motives, had engaged in a propaganda campaign that effectively deceived the American people on a massive scale. The propaganda continues to this day, such as the implausible denial that there ever was such a campaign and the fabricated myth that there was an "intelligence failure" leading up to the war. But the propaganda isn't limited to Iraq. Iran has become a major focus of U.S. propaganda efforts. That this state of affairs continues demonstrates the failure of the American people to learn the most obvious lessons from the course of events that led us to be in Iraq in the first place.


     One front in the propaganda war is to blame Iran for the situation that exists today as a result of U.S. actions. Iran, we are told, supports the resistance against the U.S. occupation and is intent upon destabilizing the country. We are told this at the same time that it is acknowledged that Iran's best interests lie in maintaining friendly relations with the current Shiite-dominated government of Iraq. No attempt to reconcile the contradiction is ever made.


     The basic framework for present debate concerning Iran is founded upon the assumption that any Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs is illegitimate and wrong. The legitimacy of our own actions is unquestionable, and it's accepted as an axiom that, though we may make mistakes from time to time, our presence in Iraq is one of benevolence. The U.S. waged a war of aggression, "the supreme international crime" as defined at Nuremberg, inflicting death and destruction upon the country and resulting in almost total destabilization (Iraq was recently ranked second only to Sudan in Foreign Policy's annual failed states index). But, still, the U.S. is basically good and her intentions benign; and no one must ever question that basic assumption.


     To point out the obvious, Iraq is a country on the other side of the world from the U.S. while it shares a border with Iran. We may imagine the U.S. reaction to the invasion and occupation of, say, Canada, by, say, Russia or China. The assumption, were the Iran and U.S. roles to be reversed, would be precisely the opposite; it would be assumed that the U.S. would have a "right" to interfere in the affairs of its neighboring country.


     That this would be so is self-evident if we set aside the hypothetical and examine the plethora of examples wherein the U.S. has actually claimed some sort of inherent right to interfere with the affairs of others. Take the U.S.'s war against Nicaragua, for which it was condemned by the World Court for the unlawful use of force. This is an action which, since a proxy armed group was employed, falls short of an act of aggression and falls into the category of state-sponsored international terrorism, if we give the U.S. the benefit of the doubt.


     Or look at U.S. interference in Iran. We criticize Iran today for allegedly interfering in the affairs of its neighbors while having had overthrown the government of the democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, and installing the hated Shah, ushering in an era of brutal repression and ultimately leading to the Islamic revolution that resulted in the Shah's overthrow.


     The hypocrisy of condemning Iran for so much lesser than what the U.S. is responsible for is lost upon mainstream commentators. Simply stated, the framework assumes that when we do it, it's good, but when they do it, it's bad. If you go outside of that framework, you're some sort of radical and must hence be disregarded.


     There is also the question of whether the claims made against Iran are even true or not. There's been no shortage of claims made against Iran by the government and media attempting to demonize the country. In one particularly noteworthy example, U.S. News & World Report ran a story that claimed Iranian troops had "surrounded and attacked" American soldiers "well within the border of Iraq". The claimed source for this sensational "exclusive" was a U.S. Army report. The interesting thing is that the Army report contained no such information. Anyone who actually took the time to examine the source for the story, conveniently supplied to readers by the U.S. News & World Report website, could see that it doesn't say American troops were "surrounded", but "approached" by Iranian soldiers from whom they retreated (which they couldn't have done had they been surrounded); and the report states explicitly that it was uncertain whether this incident actually occurred in Iraq or not. The author, to put it plainly, lied and fabricated a "news" story which U.S. News & World Report found fit to print. While certainly an instructive example of deceitful propaganda for its blatant dishonesty, it is by no means the only one.


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Jeremy R. Hammond is the owner, editor, and principle writer for Foreign Policy Journal, a website dedicated to providing news, critical analysis, and commentary on U.S. foreign policy, particularly with regard to the "war on terrorism" and events (more...)
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