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The loonies take over the asylum
Murdoch hack counsels an “unconscionable” war on Iran

By Gavin Gatenby
5 February 2006

Anyone who doubts the determination of key elements of the US-led imperialist bloc to wage a ‘preemptive’ war against Iran should read the recent opinion piece by Gerard Baker from The Times (it was reproduced in The Weekend Australian 28-29 Jan 2006). Not much appears in The Times by accident, and certainly not a piece of such resounding bellicosity. (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,19269-2011570,00.html)

Until I read Baker’s article I had been persuaded that the Bush government would not be quite so loony as to launch a war against Iran, for the simple reason that its puppet Iraqi government is dominated by pro-Iranian politicians and that it relies heavily (in some areas completely) on the militias of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution In Iraq (SCIRI) for recruits for the Iraqi puppet police and army units. To wage war on Iran, would be to wage war upon the US-led occupation’s only ally in Iraq (apart from the Kurds, who really just want to secede). The anti-secular Shiites are, to be sure, not enthusiastic and reliable allies, but they are, at the moment, the occupation’s indispensable counterweight to the Sunni and Baathist Iraqi resistance. In spite of this reliance, the neo-conservatives are now determined to wage war upon their allies. That is a measure of their willingness to use the most barbaric measures to subdue the entire region.

Baker writes “The unavoidable reality is that we need urgently to steel ourselves to the ugly probability that diplomacy will not now suffice: one way or another unconscionable acts of war may now be unavoidable”.

Be afraid of Baker’s words … very afraid. They are flagrantly, apocalyptically, wickedly, mad. They counsel an irresponsible, almost eager, embrace of death and destruction that pays no heed to the unpredictable consequences of such a war.

To my knowledge, nothing quite like these sentiments has been heard since the extremists of German expansionism, French revanchism, Tsarist reaction, Austro-Hungarian intransigence and Serbian nationalism stoked the tensions that plunged the world into the Great War. I can recall nothing similar during the cold war.

By “unconscionable acts of war” Baker means that another blatant act of super-power aggression against a small sovereign state is imperative. What he does not spell out is that this aggression will necessarily take the form of an enormous aerial offensive designed to bomb Iran back to the Stone Age – an offensive unlikely to stop short of nuclear weapons.

He readily acknowledges that this act would have “devastating consequences for the region and for the world”, and that it would “entrench and harden the Iranian regime” (actually, for better or worse, it’s an elected government with a popular mandate). He admits that even the young intellectuals who oppose this theocratic government “will pause at the sight of their country “burnt and humiliated”. “A war, even a limited one”, he continues, “will almost certainly raise oil prices to recession-inducing levels”.

Note here that he envisages that the strike against Iran will not necessarily be “limited”. But even these weasel words mask the reality that such an attack carries the extreme risk that Russia, China and Pakistan (among others) will see their vital interests under threat.

But Baker goes further. He acknowledges that the offensive he wants “will foster more violence in the Middle East, strengthen the insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, fuel anti-Western sentiment among Muslims everywhere and encourage terrorism against us at home”.

And then comes his most chilling and irrational rhetorical exhortation: “All true. All fearfully powerful arguments against the use of the military option. But multiplied together, squared and then cubed, the weight of these arguments does not come close to matching the case for us to stop, by whatever means may be necessary, Iran from becoming a nuclear power” (my emphasis).

Let’s be quite clear about what Baker (only recently recruited to Rupert Murdoch’s most influential newspaper) is proposing here. He is seriously counselling – with a kind of mad fatalism – that Britain, the US and their allies must reduce Iran to a smoking radioactive ruin, even though that action might trigger a global war.

Such a strategy is made necessary by the fact that the volunteer professional armies of the coalition that invaded Iraq – tied down as they are by the Iraqi resistance – could never assemble enough troops to manage a conventional invasion and occupation of Iran. What is envisaged is a return to the strategy of “control without occupation”used by the British RAF in the years between the First and Second World Wars (see here). It was a policy of brutal aerial bombardment designed to neutralise centres of opposition or even protest and tax evasion. This time around the strategy would not be at the level of tribes and mud-hut villages but would aim to cripple an entire nation.

Let us step back here and ask what transgression by Iran could merit this ardent desire for war, regardless of the clearly admitted consequences? Baker’s case against the Tehran government (for which I do not hold a brief, for I am a secular socialist) is pure mendacity. There is no evidence that Iran is currently doing more than trying to develop a nuclear power industry, which is its right. Even if it holds ambitions to develop nuclear weapons, that , most fair and rational people would assert, is regrettable, but also no more than its right. The US has nuclear weapons, Israel (unlike Iran, not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) has nuclear weapons, Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons.

Baker asserts that a nuclear-armed Shiite Iran would “surely step up its campaign of terror around the world”. What campaign? This is a bizarre assertion. Iran has certainly supported the suicide bombing tactics of the Palestinian resistance, but, apart from this, where is the evidence, even in the mainstream media, of a global campaign of Shiite Islamist terrorism originating in Iran?

Only wilful ignoramuses and people who have paid absolutely no attention to world politics over the last two decades could take this madness seriously. To date, the standard line peddled by the mainstream western media is that al-Qaeda, a Sunni Wahabist organization, is behind every atrocity ranging from 9/11 to the Madrid and London bombings and the slaughter of Shiite pilgrims in Iraq. The Taliban fighters in Afghanistan are, similarly, Sunnis and regard Shiite Iran as, at best, schismatic. World-wide, Shiites amount to, at most, 10 per cent of Muslims, which would be a very poor base from which to export a world revolution, even if the Tehran mullahs really wanted to.

Clearly, the word is out from the White House and 10 Downing St – public opinion must urgently be prepared for a preemptive strike against Iran. Within days of Baker’s piece, George Bush renewed his rhetoric against Iran in his State of the Union address and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a statement that betrays a total lack of historic perspective, labelled the Iranian government as being as bad as the Nazis.

Baker ends his histrionics on a fearsome note, calling on all in the West to embrace “a psychological readiness, a personal willingness … to bear the terrible burdens that [war] will surely impose”, and in a bizarre touch calls this “the last real chance” to avoid war.

Actually, it’s dangerous, hysterical, madness, and as Baker well knows, the war has already been decided upon.