Monday, April 1, 2013

Tom Engelhardt's Two-Fisted Defense of Iran

In light of all the nuclear weapon drama coming out of North Korea, HP blogger Tom Engelhardt has published an essay which keeps up the denials about Iranian nuclear weapons. Like Neville Chamberlain promising peace in our time, Engelhardt insists we should believe him despite all the evidence to the contrary.

First, Engelhardt quotes all of the news articles on President Obama's recent statements on Iranian nukes:
"Had you searched for "Israel, nuclear weapons" at Google News in the wake of President Obama's recent trip to the Middle East, you would have gotten a series of headlines like this: "Obama: Iran more than a year away from developing nuclear weapon" (CNN), "Obama vows to thwart Tehran's nuclear drive" (the Times of Israel), Obama: No nuclear weapons for Iran (the San Angelo Times), "US, Israel increasingly concerned about construction of Iran's plutonium-producing reactor" (Associated Press), "Obama says 'there is still time' to find diplomatic solution to Iran nuke dispute; Netanyahu hints at impatience" (NBC), "Iran's leader threatens to level cities if Israel attacks, criticizes US nuclear talks" (Fox)."
President Obama is concerned, but you shouldn't be, because Tom Engelhardt isn't. Why? Well, we'll get to that in a second. Tom has to change the subject to how Iran is the victim in this whole situation:
"At the moment, despite one aircraft carrier task force sidelined in Norfolk, Virginia (theoretically because of sequester budget cuts), the U.S. continues to maintain a massive military presence around Iran. That modest-sized regional power, run by theocrats, has been hobbled by ever-tightening sanctions, its skies filled with U.S. spy drones, its offshore waters with U.S. warships. Its nuclear scientists have been assassinated, assumedly by agents connected to Israel, and its nuclear program attacked by Washington and Tel Aviv in the first cyberwar in history. As early as 2007, the U.S. Congress was already ponying up hundreds of millions of dollars for a covert program of destabilization that evidently involved cross-border activities, assumedly using U.S. special operations forces -- and that's only what's known about the pressure being exerted on Iran."
All these things are just happening to Iran, that "modest-sized" fascist theocracy! It's "being hobbled" by sanctions, its scientists are "being assassinated," everything is in the passive voice. No reason to talk about Iranian funding of Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Assad dictatorship in Syria. No need to mention Iranian refusal of nuclear inspectors at various installations. Why talk about all of the Americans jailed by Iran just for being Americans? Iran is just sitting around minding its own business when the mean old USA and Israel international community started sanctioning it for no reason at all! Note Engelhardt's use of "Tel Aviv" in his essay, even though no decisions are coming out of Tel Aviv, they are all coming out of Jerusalem. But we're already accustomed to Engelhardt's denial of reality.

I can understand if Mr. Engelhardt doesn't believe Iran is developing nuclear weapons, that's a valid point of view and we can discuss it. I cannot understand though why he is presenting Iran as some kind of victim. 

Now that Tom's painted a word picture of Iran as the helpless victim, he's ready to whitewash Iranian nukes:
"And all of this is due, so we're told, to what remains a fantasy nuclear weapon, one that endangers no one because it doesn't exist, and most observers don't think that Tehran is in the process of preparing to build one either. In other words, the scariest thing in our world, or at least in the Middle Eastern part of it -- if you believe Washington, Tel Aviv, and much reporting on the subject -- is a nuclear will-o'-the-wisp."
If you click on that link, and Tom Engelhardt hopes you don't, it's to an article that is over a year old that simply reports that "US intelligence agencies" don't think Iran is building a bomb.

You should definitely believe that article from a year ago, because nothing has changed since then. Except of course that Iran has activated a heavy water reactor, placed guns around it, and forbidden inspectors from visiting the site since August 2011. Also back in November Iran installed 700 new centrifuges which according to the IAEA could allow Iran to make "the core of a nuclear weapons" within months.  But I'm sure that quote from over a year ago is still applicable. And Englehardt isn't coming off as smart as he thinks he sounds; as even Netanyahu pointed out in the UN last year the problem is not Iran having nuclear weapons. The problem is the point at which Iran can no longer be stopped from attaining those nuclear weapons. Englehardt dismisses this with the wave of his hand, but not everyone who doesn't live in ivory towers can afford to be so naive.

Next, Engelhardt tries a classic Internet argument, the deflection:
"In the meantime, curiously enough, months can pass without significant focus on or discussion of Pakistan's expanding nuclear arsenal. And yet, in that shaky, increasingly destabilized country, such an existing arsenal has to qualify as a genuine and growing regional danger.... you can read endlessly in the mainstream about President Obama's recent triumphs in the Middle East and that Iranian nuclear program without ever stumbling upon anything of significance about the only genuine nuclear arsenal in the vicinity: Israel's. On the rare occasions when it is even mentioned, it's spoken of as if it might or might not exist. Israel, Fox News typically reports, "is believed to have the only nuclear weapons arsenal in the Mideast." It is, of course, Israeli policy (and a carefully crafted fiction) never to acknowledge its nuclear arsenal."
Nice try, Tom, but Israel and Pakistan having nuclear weapons has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not Iran is developing nukes. Just because one nation has nuclear weapons does not mean a rogue state ruled by a theocratic dictatorship should also be allowed to have them.

Engelhardt wraps up with a whine:
"To sum up: we continue to obsess about fantasy weapons, base an ever more threatening and dangerous policy in the region on their possible future existence, might conceivably end up in a war over them, and yet pay remarkably little attention to the existing nuclear weapons in the region. If this were the approach of countries other than either the U.S. or Israel, you would know what to make of it and undoubtedly words like "paranoia" and "fantasy" would quickly creep into any discussion."
I'm not sure who "we" is in this paragraph, but you better believe President Obama at least is concerned about Pakistan's nuclear weapons, as has every US president for the past decade. Mr. Engelhardt certainly isn't concerned about Pakistan's nukes, he just likes them as a way to take attention off of his beloved Iran.

A perfect essay for the Huffington Post, pro-Iran, anti-Israel, and anti-United States. One might also notice that it is critical of President Obama, but don't expect anyone to accuse Englehardt of having greater loyalty to Iran than America. That isn't how things work on the Huffington Post.

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