Return of Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine

Exclusive: Just as happened before the Iraq War, those who want to bomb Iran are scaring the American people with made-up scenarios about grave dangers ahead, new warnings as ludicrous as the “mushroom cloud” tales that panicked the U.S. public a decade ago, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

A weak point in the psyches of many Americans is that they allow their imaginations to run wild about potential threats to their personal safety, no matter how implausible the dangers may be. Perhaps, this is a side effect from watching too many scary movies and violent TV shows.

But this vulnerability also may explain why the current war hysteria against Iran is reviving the sorts of fanciful threats to the United States last seen before the Iraq War. Since right-wing Israelis and their neocon allies are having trouble selling the U.S. public on a new preemptive war in the Middle East, they have again resorted to dreaming up hypothetical scenarios to scare easily frightened Americans.

Vice President Dick Cheney from a poster by Robbie Conal (

For instance, in a New York Times Magazine article on Jan. 29 by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman which essentially laid out Israel’s case for attacking Iran Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s vice prime minister and minister of strategic affairs, is quoted as explaining the need to make Americans very afraid of Iran. Bergman wrote:

“It is, of course, important for Ya’alon to argue that this is not just an Israeli-Iranian dispute, but a threat to America’s well-being. ‘The Iranian regime will be several times more dangerous if it has a nuclear device in its hands,’ he went on. ‘One that it could bring into the United States. It is not for nothing that it is establishing bases for itself in Latin America and creating links with drug dealers on the U.S.-Mexican border.

“‘This is happening in order to smuggle ordnance into the United States for the carrying out of terror attacks. Imagine this regime getting nuclear weapons to the U.S.-Mexico border and managing to smuggle it into Texas, for example. This is not a far-fetched scenario.’”

But it is a far-fetched scenario. Indeed, there is zero intelligence to support this fear-mongering about such an Iranian plan. That the New York Times would publish such a provocative assertion without a countervailing pushback from serious U.S. intelligence analysts represents the kind of irresponsible journalism that the Times, the Washington Post and much of the mainstream U.S. news media displayed during the run-up to war with Iraq.

The fact is that U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded   and the Israeli Mossad apparently agrees that Iran has NOT even decided  to build a nuclear bomb, let alone that it would do something as nutty as give one to people outside its direct control to attack the United States, thus guaranteeing Iran’s own annihilation. [For more on the intelligence, see’s “US/Israel: Iran NOT Building Nukes.”]

Bergman’s article, which covers nine pages, also manages to avoid any mention of the fact that Israel has a real and undeclared nuclear arsenal. The Times might have regarded this as a relevant point to include both to explain why Iran might feel it needs a nuclear deterrent and to put into context the actual strategic balance in the Middle East. Instead, the Times article poses the nuclear threat to the region as emanating entirely from Iran.

In a New York Times report on Friday, Ya’alon was back again, pushing the claim that Iran had been developing an intercontinental missile that could travel 6,000 miles and strike the United States. “That’s the Great Satan,” he said, using Iran’s epithet for the United States. “It was aimed at America, not at us.”

In response to that claim, even the Times felt obliged to add some factual counterweight, noting that “the assertions went far beyond what rocket experts have established about Iran’s missile capabilities, and American officials questioned its accuracy.” There is also the point that such a hypothetical missile attack on the United States would be detected immediately and ensure a devastating counterattack on Iran.

‘One Percent Doctrine’

But it should be clear what the game is. Israeli hardliners and American neocons want a return to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s “one percent doctrine,” as described by author Ron Suskind. That is, if there is even a one percent chance that a terrorist attack might be launched against the United States, it must be treated as a certainty, thus justifying any preemptive military action that U.S. officials deem warranted.

That was the mad-hatter policy that governed the U.S. run-up to the Iraq War, when even the most dubious and dishonest claims by self-interested Iraqi exiles and their neocon friends were treated as requiring a bloody invasion of a country then at peace.

In those days, not only was there a flood of disinformation from outside the U.S. government, there also was a readiness inside George W. Bush’s administration to channel those exaggerations and lies into a powerful torrent of propaganda aimed at the American people, still shaken from the barbarity of the 9/11 attacks.

So, the American people heard how Iraq might dispatch small remote-controlled planes to spray the United States with chemical or biological weapons, although Iraq was on the other side of the globe. The New York Times hyped bogus claims about aluminum tubes for nuclear centrifuges. Other news outlets spread false stories about Iraq seeking uranium from Niger and about supposed Iraqi links to al-Qaeda terrorists.

There was a stampede of one-upsmanship in the U.S. news media as everyone competed to land the latest big scoop about Iraq’s nefarious intentions and capabilities. Even experienced journalists were sucked in . In explaining one of these misguided articles, New York Times correspondent Chris Hedges told the Columbia Journalism Review that “We tried to vet the defectors and we didn’t get anything out of Washington that said, ‘these guys are full of shit.’”

Based in Paris, Hedges said he would get periodic calls from his editors asking that he check out defector stories originating from Ahmed Chalabi’s pro-invasion Iraqi National Congress. “I thought he was unreliable and corrupt, but just because someone is a sleazebag doesn’t mean he might not know something or that everything he says is wrong,” Hedges said. [For details, see’s “Iran/Iraq ‘Defectors’ and Disinformation.”]

More Scary Talk

Even after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the eventual realization that the fear-mongering was based on falsehoods, President Bush kept up the scary talk with claims about Iraq as the “central front” in the “war on terror” and al-Qaeda building a “caliphate” stretching from Indonesia to Spain and thus threatening the United States.

Fear seemed to be the great motivator for getting the American people to line up behind actions that, on balance, often created greater dangers for the United States. Beyond the illegality and immorality of attacking other countries based on such fabrications, there was the practical issue of unintended consequences.

Which is the core logical fallacy of Cheney’s “one percent doctrine.” Overreacting to an extremely unlikely threat can create additional risks that also exceed the one percent threshold, which, in turn, require more violent responses, thus cascading outward until the country essentially destroys itself in pursuit of the illusion of perfect security.

The “one percent doctrine” is like the scene in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” as the lazy helper enchants a splintering broom to carry water for him but then cannot control the ensuing chaos of a disastrous flood.

The rational approach to national security is not running around screaming about imaginary dangers but evaluating the facts carefully and making judgments as to how the threats can be managed without making matters worse.

But Israel’s right-wing leadership and the American neocons apparently believe that the U.S. public is not inclined to rush off into another costly war if a realistic assessment prevails. Americans might be even less supportive if they understood that what Israel is actually after is a continued free hand to launch military campaigns against Palestinians in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon.

At more candid moments, that is what Israeli leaders actually indicate. For instance, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Bergman that the real worry was not that Iran would hurl a nuclear bomb at Israel but that a nuclear-armed Iran could offer some protection to the Palestinians and the Lebanese when Israel next decides it must inflict military punishment on them, as occurred in 2006 and 2008-2009.

“From our point of view,” Barak said, “a nuclear state offers an entirely different kind of protection to its proxies. Imagine if we enter another military confrontation with Hezbollah, which has over 50,000 rockets that threaten the whole area of Israel, including several thousand that can reach Tel Aviv. A nuclear Iran announces that an attack on Hezbollah is tantamount to an attack on Iran. We would not necessarily give up on it, but it would definitely restrict our range of operations.”

But Americans are not likely to favor getting dragged into another war so Israel can freely use its extraordinary military might to pummel lightly armed Arab militants and the surrounding civilian populations. For such a cause, would Americans be happy to see gas prices spike, the fragile economic recovery falter, the federal budget deficit swell, and more American soldiers be put in harm’s way?

Almost certainly not. So, the propaganda target again must be that weak point in the American psyche, that tendency to let the imagination run wild with movie-like scenarios of danger and violence.

[For more on related topics, see Robert Parry’s Lost History, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a three-book set for the discount price of only $29. For details, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

19 comments for “Return of Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine

  1. karen wittgraf
    February 5, 2012 at 14:22

    This man has blood on his hands and still insists he’s innocent. He should be in jail.

  2. Javad Vojdani
    February 5, 2012 at 05:51

    This is indeed another superb article by bob.But at the mean time I would like to remind everyone that this is not the American people who decide policies in the United States but rather israil which has bought everyone to do its dirty work.

  3. rosemerry
    February 5, 2012 at 04:21

    Does anyone else detect a resemblance of Dick Cheney in this picture to Rupert Murdoch??

  4. rosemerry
    February 5, 2012 at 04:18

    Can the US readers not notice that all the scaremongering and “advice” to the US is from israeli experts? The USA has over 5000 nukes, but the Iranians would smuggle in their only one, built under the eye of the IAEA, which never inspects Israel? The ridiculous drugrunning story-surely that is not still in vogue? what about some yellowcake from Niger, or babies ripped from incubators? Unfortunately, though polls seem to show,even in Israel,(see War in Context) a lack of support for attacking Iran,the “leaders” carry on as usual.
    Who cares about the people in a democracy?

  5. Irenicum
    February 5, 2012 at 03:20

    While I’m a Kafka fan, and so I know all about representations of cockroaches, this isn’t one of them. Karen Romero, those aren’t cockroaches you’re seeing but bombs. Please look more closely.

    • F. G. Sanford
      February 5, 2012 at 04:34

      Reminds me of that joke about Ollie Svensen, the Norwegian fighter pilot who was invited to speak about his wartime dogfighting experiences at the Ladies Auxiliary. Ollie starts recounting one mission, and he says, “Them fokkers vas everywhere”. The MC interrupts Ollie and says, “Please ladies, don’t be alarmed by Ollie’s language, a Fokker is a type of German aircraft”. Then Ollie pipes up and says, “Ja, but dem fokkers vas flying Messerschmidts”!

      I thought they were cockroaches too, at first glance.

    • Styve
      February 7, 2012 at 15:34

      I thought they were bugs, of some sort, and that the sketch was intended to depict what a raving lunatic Cheney is, to the point of some crazed addictive disorder where he conjures bugs crawling all over his body.

      Bombs work, too, but I like conjuring another scenario where bugs feed on his decomposing flesh…if ya know what I mean?!?!

  6. Big Em
    February 4, 2012 at 20:35

    Moshe Ya’alon’s scenario about Iran smuggling weapons through Mexico into Texas is absurd – – – AND he might have copyright infringement problems with the screenwriters of the movie ‘Red Dawn’ ! Recall that back in the 1980s there were idiots in this country who literally tried to convince themselves that THAT too was a plausible scenario.

    The propaganda purposes of these inanities are obvious, but what makes a seemingly larger-than-normal percentage of the US citizens susceptible to this? Especially when they are NOT under direct attack, as in a war-time situation (when rumors run rampant, due to the stress)? From what I’ve read about American exceptionalism (and/or lack thereof), it’s probably because of our relative geographical isolation and the unexamined, self-indulgent hubris of too many individuals, which is added to a lazy desire to not have to bother with researching things (easier to use the excuse that “oh, well, that’s what all the news programs were saying” even when you strongly suspect that it’s bogus). It creates a facile melodrama that’s ‘fun’ and ‘stimulating’ to a certain population… kind of like getting involved in the plot of a soap opera or ‘reality’ show.

  7. canary #8
    February 4, 2012 at 18:26

    It is crucial that the US citizenry drown out the war drums by chanting louder and louder: NO MORE WARS! NO MORE WARS! NO MORE WARS! NO MORE WARS!

  8. hoda
    February 4, 2012 at 17:50

    Hi, I appreciate your viewpiont, I am from Iran, and I could say you think like us. you know, when you are in the middle east it is hard to understand what provokes Amaricans to come here and fight now and then.. I thought it is because of oil, but now I’m changing my mind- it is some how a systematic brain washing thing there..
    I hope i didn’t bother you with my words. in return i have to say in iran we do have regulatory, culteral, and social problems and can not be denied.. but obviously the solution isn’t a war- I wander why some people think it is, help prevent a war

    • Frances in California
      February 7, 2012 at 16:09

      Dear hoda, Please feel somewhat reassured that the majority of Americans just aren’t as stupid as the loudmouths spewing the “bomb iran” garbage (John McCain isn’t stupid; John McCain is brain-damaged). We have a saying here in America: “Fool me once-shame on you; fool me twice-shame on me” We won’t go where so many were stampeded in 2003. ~ Peace.

  9. Jim Wagner
    February 4, 2012 at 16:13

    I have been advocating this very senario for several years. Your right on!

  10. Karen Romero
    February 4, 2012 at 16:12

    Hi Bob Parry,

    Thanks for writing another article. Although I haven’t yet read the article I truly feel it is yet another good article written by you.

    However this particular response is to comment on the artistic drawing of Dick Cheney. I say to Robbie Conal, “Well done!” Perfect, specially since Dick Cheney IS a cockroach! A criminal cockroach at that!

    Some of those other cockroaches in the photos aren’t named so I thought I would name them appropriately for they are Dick the “cockroach” Cheney’s cronies.

    The cockroach near his third eye, well that is none other than Erik Prince.
    The cockroach on his frontal lobe, well that is none other than Donald Rumsfeld.
    The cockroach on his right temporal lobe, well that is none other than “Dubya”
    The cockroach near his mouth is none other than the Satanic George H.W. Bush of the piece of garbage Skull and Bones Society!
    And, the cockroaches that are falling down in the photo represent what happened to Dick Cheney and all his little cronies.
    And, in case anybody doesn’t know what happened to them (which is in the very near future) THEY WENT TO HELL. RIGHT WHERE THEY DESERVED TO GO. PERHAPS IT DIDN’T SERVE THEM WELL TO DO SO MANY CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY!

  11. peacenik
    February 4, 2012 at 15:15

    How about applying the one percent doctrine to the Israelis- i.e., if there is a one-percent or greater chance that they will continue to destabilize the region or continue its program of targeted assassinations, or start a pre-emptive war with Iran, the U.S. will pull all loan guarantees, refrain from supplying Israel’s military adventures, and push for regime change in Israel, to get a government in place that is truly interested in negotiating a fair and lasting peace.

    • February 6, 2012 at 16:15

      Sounds like a perfect idea,after all the real terrorist is mainly Israel.They have a Sampson Option that treatens the hole world,and Mossads motto is by way of deception tho shalt do war.In other words we will lie decive people into war.Sounds just like Iraq whitch it is all lies.Look into the Sampson Option if you have not already.It started with a threat saying to America next time we will take the world with use.It was because America was not getting involved in a war for Israel,well after the treat America sent them the weapons and money needed to win the war.Israel has broken over 60 UN resolutions with over 35 American vetos more than any country for any ever.Thats more broken UN resolutions than the entire Mid East put togeather,and more than China and North Korea put togeather,Palistine 0.How is the real terrorists and danger to the world its very obvious its Israel,but Americans get info from the MSM t5hat is owned by modern Jews 85% that were Kazarian AshkeNAZIS and not biblicle Jews or Hebrews.Many people no this but its the most important thing faceing humains right know and there is much more tham mentioned like the USS Lyberty the Lavon Affair and many more includind 9/11 and possibly 7/7.Our existance may depend on people educating themselfs and stop supporting Israel and its crimes.I went to reply to peacenik post biut had nothing but agreement with him.Just wanted to tell some of the facts the MSM hides.

      • Oldtimer
        February 6, 2012 at 22:40

        Bomb Israhell first because they already have several hundred nuclear weapons.
        Iran has none so it would be a waste of time bomb them.

Comments are closed.