February 14, 2007

The Loss of Honor: Meddling for Me, But Not for Thee

Since most of our political leaders and the vast majority of Americans are complete amnesiacs when it comes to even recent history, including our own, Sheldon Richman provides an appropriately stern and salutary reminder:
There is something surreal in all this. The U.S. government is warning Iran against meddling in Iraq. But the U.S. government is meddling in Iraq! Is there a clearer case of a pot calling a kettle black?

Neither country should be meddling, but there are important differences. ...

There’s something else that’s bizarre about the U.S. government’s warning Iran to stay out of Iraqi affairs. In 1953 the CIA executed the ultimate interference in Iranian affairs by engineering a regime change and restoring to power the brutal and hated shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Many Americans have no idea this happened. They think the Iranian government despises America because we permit raunchy speech and abortion. One such American is Dinesh D’Souza, whose new book argues that radical Muslims like Osama bin Laden and those who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center “hate us for how we use our freedom.” D’Souza’s historical “knowledge” of U.S.-Iran relations goes all the way back to — 1979.


Does D’Souza think the forces that put Khomeini in power came out the blue unprovoked or that the revolution was motivated by Victoria’s Secret? Surely he has read about Operation Ajax, in which the CIA’s Kermit Roosevelt Jr., grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, and Norman Schwarzkopf Sr., father of the 1991 Gulf War general, conspired in 1953, along with British intelligence, to overthrow the democratically elected, though socialist, government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and restore the despotic shah to his Peacock Throne. ...

As author James A. Bill wrote, "The American intervention of August 1953 was a momentous event in the history of Iranian-American relations. [It] left a running wound that bled for twenty-five years and contaminated relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran following the revolution of 1978-79."

For a quarter-century after the coup the Iranian people suffered under the brutality and secret police of the shah, a loyal U.S. ally and recipient of millions in arms and money, until they revolted under the religious leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini. They have not forgotten the U.S. government’s responsibility.

If a foreign power had clamped a despotism on us, we too might have been resentful.
I mentioned Richman's important survey of endless U.S. interference in the Middle East since World War II in a recent post about the onslaught of propaganda concerning Iran. With only a handful of exceptions, no national political leaders seriously question our "right" to have taken these actions. They all subscribe to the Open Door world, one in which the United States assumes the role of global hegemon -- and does so by "right" as the embodiment of history's "ultimate solution." Democrats believe this as fervently as Republicans; very often, Democrats have been notably more aggressive about implementing this view of the world and of our role in it.

Richman points out several significant differences in the nature of the "meddling" in Iraq by the U.S. and Iran:
Iraq is next door to Iran but far from the United States. Iraq, backed by the United States, attacked Iran in 1980, leading to a grueling eight-year war, but never attacked [...] America. Finally, Iran’s next-door neighbor is “hosting” 150,000 U.S. troops. No Iranian troops have been sighted in Canada or Mexico.
These differences are crucial for a further reason. Because virtually the entire governing class believes it is our "right" to dominate the world, no politician can acknowledge what much of the rest of the world knows to be true: that our war of aggression against Iraq and the current occupation constitute an enormous and continuing war crime. Because Iran shares a long border with Iraq, and because our criminal presence in Iraq includes 150,000 U.S. troops, Iran can hardly be blamed if it attempts to protect itself from our extraordinarily dangerous militancy.

I stress that no proof whatsoever has been presented that Iran is in fact directly attempting to aid those in Iraq who attack U.S. troops. But even if Iran were acting in this manner, we are in no position to complain -- not morally, not legally, and not strategically. We have no right to be in Iraq at all. If we wish to avoid further "sacrifices" by members of the American military, then leave. Our presence only worsens this disaster each moment that we remain. Because we commit additional war crimes with every day that passes, we would leave -- if we recognized even minimal moral constraints on our actions, constraints that we apply to all other nations.

But we won't leave, and Congress will not end this occupation. We are America. We are Good. That we commit monstrous war crimes is a thought that cannot be allowed into our frame of reference. The worst that any politican will say is that this catastrophe has been handled "incompetently," and that it was a "strategic blunder." They are incapable of admitting that it is completely and utterly wrong on the most fundamental moral level.

So the occupation will go on for another year or two at a minimum, and U.S. troops will remain in Iraq probably for decades to come, even if they are limited to our permanent bases. And the murder and the crimes will continue.

Our delusions are impenetrable. Isn't there even one politician who can say, with absolute moral certainty that he speaks the truth:
What we have done is unforgivable, and criminal. We must leave immediately, and make all those reparations we can. That will not redeem us, or earn us forgiveness. But it is the only decent and civilized course of action, if we have any sense of honor remaining at all.
Such words will not be spoken. We will not leave. And honor has fled from us in horror.