(This is essentially a re-post of an earlier blog entry. We think it is worth bringing back up.)
It is 2012. Later this year, the citizens of the United States will choose their President. Whom Americans choose will depend on the candidates themselves: personality, intelligence, speaking ability, and the policies and values they represent. But like every presidential election, the choice will also depend on things that are largely outside of the candidates’ control – like the economy, for example. Thus, today’s news could very well influence the election looming only months away. With that in mind, it is clear that the real danger posed by Iran is how the “threat of Iran” will impact the upcoming presidential election.
Glenn Greenwald has thoroughly documented the media’s attempts to depict Iran as a belligerent and dangerous nation that threatens America’s and Israel’s safety despite a lack of credible evidence for those claims. If you have read the major newspapers in the last few days, or watched cable news, you have probably noticed, anyway. It is difficult not to interpret this treatment of Iran as propaganda for an attack. Indeed, Matt Taibbi of the Rolling Stone ominously wrote that there is a recognizable “smell of fresh chum in the waters, urging us down the road to war. Many years removed from the Iraq disaster, that smell is back, this time with Iran.”
Although President Obama has said he prefers diplomacy, he also said that invasion is on the table. In an interview yesterday with Jeffrey Goldberg, he indicated that he is “deliberately narrowing his options,” to increase the likelihood of attack. Moreover, reports from Capitol Hill indicate that regime change, not diplomacy, is the more likely strategy. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, said that there is “a constant admission from both Republican and Democrat alike that the political space is very, very small, if at all, for maneuver.” The political situation is simply “not supportive of a real, solid diplomatic track.”
According to Col. Wilkerson, it is “precisely” as if there is a competition in Congress “to show how militant you are.” This should anger voters. The Iraq war not only became hugely unpopular and incredibly expensive, it led to the deaths of thousands of Americans and over 1 million Iraqis. If not for the illusion of a threat from Iran, hopefully no American—not even a politician—would think twice about another invasion for “regime change.”
Unfortunately, as Greenwald, Taibbi, and others have shown, the media appears to be manufacturing a danger and a cause for war. In an election year, this is unusually dangerous. It is not at all hard to imagine that as time goes on, and the media frenzy intensifies, the “competition to show how militant you are” will engulf the candidates for President.
If American military action is born out of such a competition, then its costs in dollars and deaths could be grossly exaggerated to comport with the belligerent rhetoric that preceded it. After all, our two major parties are both controlled by people practically obsessed with fostering their warrior images. Thus, whomever becomes the Republican nominee (unless it is Ron Paul) will sharply inveigh against President Obama for having failed to attack Iran already. And President Obama, who expanded the war in Afghanistan in 2009; used drones to “carry out lethal attacks in at least six countries;” and tried to negotiate an extension for U.S. troops to remain in Iraq seems likely to respond by adopting an even more aggressive stance, especially since his strategy in office has been to appeal to the conservative and independent voter.
Why present this scenario? First, people should do what they can to prevent an attack on Iran. If politicians have left themselves little or no space to “maneuver” away from invasion, popular opposition to war may succeed in creating that space for them.
Second, this very realistic scenario should show what a farce of American democracy the “two-party mentality”—in short, an erroneous belief that a vote for any candidate not from the two major parties is “wasted”—makes. Come November, the leaders of both parties may be fighting over who is the better man to lead the war against Iran – a war many Americans want desperately to avoid. Americans will know that invading Iran will probably be like invading Iraq – expensive, unpopular, based on lies, and fatal to thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iranians. If Americans accept the myth of our “two party system,” they will have no choice but to pick one warmonger over the other.
That is why people have to shake themselves out of the two-party mentality. If we take our democracy seriously, we cannot escape the responsibility that we-the-citizens carry for the policies of the officials we elect. In the above scenario, a vote for either major party candidate enables and endorses an unjust war. But more importantly, the power to stop it will also be in our hands – or rather, our votes. Hopefully, this situation will not come to pass and we will reach a peaceful resolution to our problems with Iran. If it does, though, then I hope that American’s will open their minds to the fact that they are not bound to vote for a candidate who supports injustice and death, even if he has a D or an R by his name.