Beating the Drums of War, Again

The U.S. news media is in harness again, pulling the latest bandwagon for war, this time with Iran. So, Americans should expect soft coverage of U.S.-Israeli provocations of Iran and media outrage over any Iranian retaliation, as the Independent Institute’s Ivan Eland explains.

By Ivan Eland

The apparent Israeli-U.S. covert operations to inhibit Iran’s missile and alleged nuclear weapons programs, using assassinations, computer worms, faulty parts, exploding factories, etc., very likely have a secondary objective as well.

When Iran haplessly and publicly vows revenge and retaliates, as it purportedly has with ham-handed attempts to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in the United States and car bombings of Israeli embassy personnel in the countries of India and Georgia, it allows Israel and the United States to further hype the limited Iranian threat to either country. By inflating the threat, both countries can better justify any future military strike on Iran.

USS Maine, which exploded and sank in Havana Harbor in 1898, touched off the Spanish-American War

Contrary to popular belief, the data show that democracies don’t go to war any less frequently than autocracies. But when they do, unlike authoritarian regimes, they need to win public support for the war effort by attempting to show that their opponent started the dustup. In American history, there is a rich tradition of tricking enemies into starting conflicts.

Before the Mexican War, President James Polk blockaded the Rio Grande (an act of war), sent troops into disputed territory on the Texas-Mexican border to which the Mexicans had a better claim, and falsely claimed that the Mexican response had killed American soldiers on U.S. soil. In reality, Mexico had refused to sell what is now the southwestern United States to Polk, so he decided to beat up on a weaker country and steal one-third of its land by armed force.

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln could have withdrawn federal forces from Fort Sumter, which had no military value, as all of his senior military advisers had advocated, and pursued a compromise with South Carolina and other seceding states. Because an earlier resupply ship and a wayward merchant ship had been fired on by Confederate batteries in Charleston Harbor, Lincoln knew exactly what would happen if he tried to resupply, instead of evacuate, the fort.

In fact, to make sure the Confederates wouldn’t miss the chance to start a massive Civil War, Lincoln announced to them that a resupply mission containing only food was on the way, instead of trying to secretly slip the supplies through to the fort. Lincoln even admitted that he was trying to provoke the Confederates to start hostilities, by firing upon bread, in order to win over world and Northern public opinion.

Despite protests from the leading naval commander on the scene that the explosion on the U.S. warship Maine didn’t happen because of foul play (which recent research has supported), the U.S. government falsely blamed the Spanish, thus contributing to war hysteria in the United States. The Spanish-American War ensued.

In 1941, long before Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to provoke Adolf Hitler into declaring war on the United States by actively helping the British to sink German U-boats in the Atlantic Ocean. Hitler refused to take the bait until his ally, Japan, bombed Pearl Harbor.

FDR knew it was likely that Japan would attack the United States somewhere. FDR had cut off Japanese oil supplies, motivating them to invade what is now Indonesia, which was oil-rich. But the U.S.-occupied Philippines would threaten their line of supply. So Japan attacked the Philippines and the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor simultaneously.

In 1964, the U.S. was secretly raiding the coast of North Vietnam. The North Vietnamese were then alleged to have launched, with patrol boats, two retaliatory attacks on U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. The second alleged attack was nonexistent. Nevertheless, President Lyndon Johnson ordered retaliatory airstrikes, got Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution providing an open-ended authorization for hostilities in Southeast Asia, and then escalated the Vietnam War.

In other chicanery, President Ronald Reagan invaded the island of Grenada to “rescue endangered medical students.” The students were hardly endangered; Reagan’s real intention was to remove a pro-communist government.

During the first Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush claimed that Saddam Hussein, who had invaded Kuwait, was massing troops to invade the crown jewel of the oil world, Saudi Arabia. This claim was used to justify sending U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia and eventually to attack Iraq. The problem was that Soviet spy satellites and the Saudis’ investigation of their border with Iraq and occupied Kuwait discovered no Iraqi troop buildup there.

And we all remember the second Gulf War, in which President George W. Bush used the threat of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion and occupation of Saddam’s Iraq.

Thus, given America’s rich history of goading its foes into warfare, watch closely for continued Israeli and U.S. attempts to provoke Iranian countermeasures, which then could be used to help justify a future military attack.

Ivan Eland is Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland has spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. His books include Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, and Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy.

11 comments for “Beating the Drums of War, Again

  1. Judah the Lion
    February 29, 2012 at 12:44

    Wisse: Harvard’s Latest Assault on Israel
    Promoting the Jewish State’s destruction at a school dedicated to ‘democratic governance.’
    Ruth Wisse..
    Wall Street Journal..
    28 February ’12..

    In 1948, when the Arab League declared war on Israel, no one imagined that six decades later American universities would become its overseas agency. Yet campus incitement against Israel has been growing from California to the New York Island. A conference at Harvard next week called “Israel/Palestine and the One-State Solution” is but the latest aggression in an escalating campaign against the Jewish state.

    The sequence is by now familiar: Arab student groups and self-styled progressives organize a conference or event like “Israeli Apartheid Week,” targeting Israel as the main problem of the Middle East. They frame the goals of these events in buzzwords of “expanding the range of academic debate.” But since the roster of speakers and subjects makes their hostile agenda indisputable, university spokespersons scramble to dissociate their institutions from the events they are sponsoring. Jewish students and alums debate whether to ignore or protest the aggression, and newspapers fueling the story give equal credence to Israel’s attackers and defenders.

    A featured speaker at Harvard’s conference is Ali Abunimah, creator of the website Electronic Intifada, who opposes the existence of a “Jewish State” as racist by virtue of being Jewish. A regular on this circuit, he also keynoted a recent University of Pennsylvania conference urging “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) of, from and against Israel. Ostensibly dedicated to protecting Palestinian Arabs from Israeli oppression, BDS has by now achieved the status of an international “movement,” some of whose branches exclude Israeli academics from their journals and conferences.

    But the economic war on Israel did not start with BDS. In 1945, before the founding of Israel, the Arab League declared a boycott of “Jewish products and manufactured goods.” Ever since, the Damascus-based Central Boycott Office has tried to enforce a triple-tiered boycott prohibiting importation of Israeli-origin goods and services, trade with any entity that does business in Israel, and engagement with any company or individual that does business with firms on the Arab League blacklist. Although the U.S. Congress took measures to counteract this boycott, and the Damascus Bureau may be temporarily preoccupied on other fronts, the boycott momentum has been picked up by Arab students and academics.

    Freedom of speech grants all Americans the right to prosecute the verbal war against Israel. But let’s differentiate toleration from abetting. Harvard may tolerate smoking, butits medical school wouldn’t sponsor a conference touting the benefits of cigarettes because doctors have learned that smoking is hazardous to health. The avowed mission of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, host of the upcoming conference, “is to strengthen democratic governance around the world by preparing people for public leadership and by helping to solve problems of public policy.” How farcical that instead of seeking to strengthen democratic governance, its students hijack its forum for “studying” how to destroy the hardiest democracy in the Middle East.

    The pattern of anti-Israel attack, administrative embarrassment, Jewish confusion, and media exploitation of the story will continue until all parties realize that the war against Israel is fundamentally different from biases to which it is often compared. Once Americans acknowledged the evils of their discrimination against African-Americans, they abjured their racism and tried through affirmative action to compensate for past injustice. Arab and Muslim leaders have done the opposite. Having attempted to deny Jews their right to their one country, they accused Jews of denying Arabs their 22nd. After losing wars on the battlefield, they prosecuted the war by other means.

    Students who are inculcated with hatred of Israel may want to express their national, religious or political identity by urging its annihilation. But universities that condone their efforts are triple offenders—against their mission, against the Jewish people, and perhaps most especially against the maligners themselves. Smoking is less fatal to smokers than anti-Jewish politics is to its users. Remember Hitler’s bunker.

    Ms. Wisse, a professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard, is the author of
    “Jews and Power” (Schocken, 2007).

  2. charles sereno
    February 22, 2012 at 16:10

    “the Jewish national home” (flat5)
    This is certainly an issue, perhaps the most fundamental one, in the terrible conflicts ongoing since the establishment of the state of Israel more than 60 years ago. I was born in Hawaii not long after it was “colonized” by the US which, itself, was a European breakaway colony over a hundred years before. Both of these “facts on the ground” instances will never be reversed. Whether Israel will prevail with a similar strategy is still in abeyance. I hope a more humane solution prevails.

  3. Morton Kurzweil
    February 21, 2012 at 22:06

    It is time for the war mongers to call for a draft of all the jobless and welfare parasites they claim are destroying America.
    A draft that no one answers will finally be the answer to the neocoms and the conservatives who have falsified all evidence to begin wars that have reduced our country to a third rate power without the manufacturing means to defend ourselves. Those who want a smaller government want a government in the hands of a few who own the property and distribution of goods and services.

  4. Kathy Browning
    February 21, 2012 at 19:55

    I think Mr. Eland has a heck of a nerve effectively equating Lincoln’s actions on the eve of the Civil War, and FDR’s on the threshold of U.S. entry into WWII, with the disgraceful behavior of Polk, Johnson, Reagan, Bush I and above all, Bush II. Under Lincoln and FDR, war was just about inevitable anyway and even if it could have been avoided, not to fight would have constituted a betrayal of broad, fundamental human values. Whereas the other guys were conducting wars of aggression for global dominance and/or political advantage. There is a big difference.

    Have read ConsortiumNews regularly for years, with interest and respect. But this is beyond off-base: poisonous.

  5. charles sereno
    February 21, 2012 at 18:51

    Even the most gullible among us has a fleeting moment of doubt about the story we’re expected to believe. Too bad, we only get to re-live such moments retrospectively in histories or movies. Eland has a touch of Twain in this essay.

  6. Hillary
    February 21, 2012 at 12:09

    Please lets have some sympathy for our political leaders and their endless sleepless nights facing this urgent nuclear threat from Iran ?

    Sadly their only consolation is lavish campaign donations from AIPAC & even more from individual Jewish Billionaires.

    Remember Saddam Hussein’s WMD and the mushroom cloud scare got us the Invasion of Iraq ?

    Yes Dumbed Down America and its everlasting hunger for revenge for 9/11 ?

    BTW —- wasn’t it so easy for 19 Muslims with phony passports to board commercial planes , hijack them with box cutters and then carry out spectacular aerobatics to hit targets causing destruction that contradicted the laws of Physics.

    And all this organized by a boggy man living in a cave in Afghanistan — who denied it all .

    Meanwhile 80 Million Iranians live 24/7 under the terror of an Israeli nuclear attack.

    • Kenneth Ashe
      February 22, 2012 at 07:42

      Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s comments on Iran were cleverly misinterpreted. He did not call for the destruction if Israel, he said that he didn’t think it could continue to exist as an apartheid state.

      Apparently the neo-cons think that our invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan have gone so well that we ought to try it in Iran as well. (the definition of insanity)

      Both American and Israeli intelligence services have said that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon. A nuclear free middle east would be an admirable goal. To target Iran like this is nothing but an excuse to go to war and again profit the military-industrial-congressional complex.

    • Judah the Lion
      February 28, 2012 at 21:22

      Plain and Simple: Anti-Zionism Is Anti-Semitism
      There’s no daylight between the anti-Zionist and the anti-Semite

      By David Solway,, January 6, 2012

      It is easy to see that many critics of Israel are unquestionably anti-Semitic in outlook and feeling and are merely using a political argument to camouflage a religious, racist, or ethnophobic sentiment. Under cover of “legitimate criticism of Israel” and the condemnation of Zionism as an invasive colonial movement, anti-Semitism has now become safe. Plainly, the distinction these new anti-Semites like to draw between anti-Semitism as such and anti-Zionism is intended only to cloak the fundamental issue and to provide camouflage for vulgar ideas and beliefs.

      This is a very shrewd tactic and is most disconcerting not only in its vindictiveness but in its frequency. Jewish philosopher and theologian Emil Fackenheim has outlined three stages of anti-Semitism: “You cannot live among us as Jews,” leading to forced conversions; “You cannot live among us,” leading to mass deportations; and “You cannot live,” leading to genocide. Amnon Rubinstein, patron of the Israeli Shinui party and author of “From Herzl to Rabin: The Changing Image of Zionism,” has added a fourth stage: “You cannot live in a state of your own,” which leads to boycott, divestment, sanctions, biased reporting, pro forma support of the Palestinians, and calls for the delegitimation, territorial reduction, and in some cases even the disappearance of Israel as we know it.

      If this is not unqualified anti-Semitism, then nothing is. As Martin Luther King Jr. observed at a Harvard book fair during which Zionism came under assault: “It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the Globe. It is discrimination against Jews, my friend, because they are Jews. In short, it is anti-Semitism. … Let my words echo in the depths of your soul: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews — make no mistake about it.” King understood, as so many have not, that there is really no daylight between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. To deprive Jews of their national haven or to submerge them in a so-called “binational state” with an Arab majority is to render them vulnerable to prejudicial fury, scapegoating, pogroms, and, ultimately, even to Holocaust.

      King’s homespun analysis has been confirmed in a report released in the August 2006 issue of the Journal of Conflict Resolution by the Yale School of Management in collaboration with its Institute for Social and Policy Studies. The report concludes that the statistical link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism can no longer be denied — a correlation that should have been obvious years ago despite the disclaimers regularly circulated by covert Jew-haters and Jewish revisionists.

      In “Why The Jews?” Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin similarly point out that:

      The contention that anti-Zionists are not enemies of Jews, despite the advocacy of policies that would lead to the mass murder of Jews, is, to put it as generously as possible, disingenuous. … Given, then, that if anti-Zionism realized its goal, another Jewish holocaust would take place, attempts to draw distinctions between anti-Zionism and antisemitism are simply meant to fool the naïve.

      All that has happened, according to these authors, is “only a change in rhetoric.” Anti-Zionism, they claim, “is unique in only one way: it is the first form of Jew-hatred to deny that it hates the Jews.”

      When we turn to the Jewish community itself, we find an analogous dynamic at work among many of its more fractious and insensible members. The issue is only exacerbated by the large number of generally left-wing Jews who have spoken out against Israel, levelling an endless barrage of cavils, reproofs, and aspersions against social and political conditions in the Jewish state or its negotiation tactics vis à vis the Palestinians. The verbal Kassams and textual Katyushas they continually launch are as damaging to Israel’s international standing as Hamas rockets and Hezbollah missiles are to its physical security. Some go so far as to deplore its very existence, regarding the country as a burden on their assimilationist lifestyle, as an unwelcome reminder of their indelible and resented Jewishness, or as a particularist violation of their utopian notions of universal justice.

      Many Jews tend to see Israel as a threat to their convenience, a nuisance at best, a peril at worst. They have failed to comprehend the justice of George Steiner’s lambent remark in “Language and Silence”: “If Israel were to be destroyed, no Jew would escape unscathed. The shock of failure, the need and harrying of those seeking refuge, would reach out to implicate even the most indifferent, the most anti-Zionist.” According to Saul Bellow in “To Jerusalem and Back,” the great Israeli historian Jacob Leib Talmon was of the same mind. In a conversation with the author, Talmon feared that the destruction of Israel would bring with it the end of “corporate Jewish existence all over the world, and a catastrophe that might overtake U.S. Jewry.”

      These Jews who are vexed by the existence of their fallback country are living in a fantasy of personal immunity to the bubonics of Jew-hatred, something that has never ceased to infect the world. In reviling the one nation on earth that serves as a last asylum should they ever find themselves in extremis, they have not only risked their — or their children’s — possible future survival. They have also effectively expunged their own historical identity, aligning themselves with the foul theories and convictions of their persecutors. Victim and victimizer are in agreement. This is nothing less than a form of self-loathing, a rejection of essence, that paradoxically corresponds to the contempt and hatred of the non-Jewish anti-Semite. It is, in short, nothing less than reflexive anti-Semitism.

      As Daniel Greenfield asks in an article exposing the campus betrayals of the Berkeley Hillel chapter that endorses patently anti-Zionist organizations, “why shouldn’t there be a consensus that Jewish identity is incompatible with the rejection of the Jewish state?” Following the same line of thought, Phil Orenstein, a member of the National Conference on Jewish Affairs, writes:

      For two millennium [sic], the Jewish people have been rejected from countries throughout the world. Now at long last we have the Jewish State, a safe haven that can welcome our people home. We need to teach our youth what the blessing of Israel means to the Jewish people.

      In fact, it is not only Jewish youth who have strayed from the recognition of who they are and who the world regards them as being, as if they could find sanctuary in ostensibly exalted ideals or in collaboration with their diehard adversaries. It is every Jew who has embraced the anti-Zionist canard and by so doing negated his own integrity and selfhood. In denouncing or repudiating Israel, the state founded to ensure his perseverance and preserve his identity in the world, he has renounced that same identity. He has disavowed and thus erased himself — precisely as the typical anti-Zionist, laboring to obliterate Israel from the map, has sought to render the Jew defenseless and susceptible to repression or, even worse, extermination.

      Updating the Hannukah story, Steven Plaut accurately describes these anti-Zionist Jews as modern Hellenists “ashamed of their Jewishness,” siding with the Seleucid empire against the Hasmoneans who fought for the restoration and survival of the Jewish people. But the upshot is that anyone who objects to the existence of the state of Israel, who would like to have it vanish from the international stage, who wishes it had never been established, who considers it a geopolitical blunder, or who insists on treating it as an embarrassment or a nettle to one’s equanimity, is an anti-Semite, for he would despoil the Jewish people of its last line of defense in an always problematic world. In “What Is Judaism?,” Fackenheim laments that “all anti-Zionism, Jewish and Gentile, should have come to a total end with the gas chambers and smoke-stacks of Auschwitz.” Regrettably, this was not to be.

      Certainly, one can be critical of Israel, but given its beleaguered condition, surrounded by enemies and constantly under attack, such criticism must be tempered by respect and circumspection. Nor should criticism function as a stalking horse behind which an inimical or incendiary project moves forward. It is when legitimate criticism morphs into anti-Zionism that we know a malign agenda is at work.

      King was right. “When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews — make no mistake about it.” It amounts to the same thing. Whoever — Jew or non-Jew — advances a campaign against the wellbeing or the existence of the Jewish state is, quite simply, an anti-Semite. It makes no difference if the hater is a Muslim like Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Christian like Jostein Gaarder, an American Jew like Thomas Friedman, or an Israeli Jew like Neve Gordon, he is an enemy of the so-called “Zionist entity” and therefore an anti-Semite. Make no mistake about it.

      David Solway is a Canadian poet and essayist. He is the author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity, and is currently working on a sequel, Living in the Valley of Shmoon. His new book on Jewish and Israeli themes, Hear, O Israel!, was released by Mantua Books.

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