As the brilliant Joan Rivers used to say, “Can we talk?” Rivers’ signature line was the perfect set-up for her outrageous comedic put-downs and observations because it expressed the mission of all great satirists: “let’s cut the crap and say what everyone knows is true but nobody will say.” I don’t have satire in mind, though I wish I could channel her gift for slings and arrows for the purposes of political commentary. American politics has moved into the realm of the worst Roman excess. The only thing left is for Trump to imitate the 1st century C.E. Roman emperor Caligula (“Little Boot”) by marrying his sister, or failing that, his daughter, and to appoint American Pharaoh, residing happily at stud, as his National Security advisor, a job at which the horse would do less damage than John Bolton. Trump’s already fiddling while the world burns.
Take the Persian Gulf oil tanker attacks. Please. Are they the latest in history’s long line of false flag attacks? The Straits of Hormuz are the narrow passage through which passes much of the world’s oil. Those responsible could be a number of players, including either Iran or the U.S., or factions therein. It could also be another nation or rogue interest operating through contractors and sub-contractors. Global interests have become convoluted and contradictory, as the mess and mesh of alliances in Syria demonstrates.
Before even attempting to figure out who might be responsible, which may never be finally determined, it might help to propose some base-line considerations:
1. The United States has been at war for 17 years in the Middle East. Seventeen years. That’s the total number of years that it took to fight the Korean War, World War II, World War I, and the U.S. Civil War combined. Our 17 years destroying the Middle East have killed and injured tens of thousands of Americans; delivered untold pain upon countless family members; corroded our economy and infrastructure; militarized American civil culture; and degraded our political system as lies become institutionalized and translated into lethal policies.
That’s the America-centric view. The chaos we’ve brought to the world’s most volatile region has destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Libya. Sure, some noxious characters were deposed but it’s not like the U.S. hasn’t supported dozens of worse regimes in the past 75 years. Millions have died, millions are homeless, tens of millions of lives are shattered. And for what? “For what? What? Oh, he’s on third.” That’s how much sense it makes. And the world is far more dangerous—militarily, economically, environmentally, and terroristically—than it was 17 years ago. These wars have led us to ignore what matters most and time is running out. That’s not some mega-church Rapture-selling preacher talking, that’s the consensus of the world’s scientific community. If you happen to still “believe” in science.
2. Iran is not Iraq even though only one letter and a 900 mile long border is all that separates them. One is Arab, the other Persian. Iran’s population is over twice that of Iraq’s. It has a strong military and 80 million people that, however many of them despise the ayatollahs, would resist an invasion and occupation with the same fervor as Iraq has, and with far greater resources at their command. One of those resources is the strong backing of Russia. Given that Putin’s boy currently resides in the White House, the claims and threats arising from the tanker attacks become even more confusing than they already are.
3. During the George W. Bush administration I wrote two columns saying that the U.S. and Iran could never go to war because the true axis of power in the Mideast was America—Israel—Iran. I did insert a caveat: that if we did go to war with Iran, it meant our government had basically lost its mind. Because—Iran is not Iraq. We haven’t even really defeated Iraq yet (destroyed it, yes). Assad still holds power in Syria. Our Saudi Arabian clients are engaged in a murder spree in Yemen. Libya is a broiling chaotic mess. We’re pretty much at a tenuous stalemate in Afghanistan and probably on the wrong end of the tie-breaker—militarily. In terms of promoting a healthy opium trade and destroying any viable, independent government, we’re making out like the bandits we are. As for Israel, until the Netanyahu toxin spread throughout its parliamentary nervous system, there had been an historic legacy of Israel and Iran somehow understanding each other despite hostile public posturing. In fact, one can argue that the stability of this troika enabled the U.S. to wreak havoc throughout the region.
Iran’s nuclear program was not really about building a bomb but about developing nuclear power so it could export more oil and become a greater regional power in Central Asia. Yes, it might have been a devious plot to nuke Israel, but as Americans we live in a haze of mis- and dis-information about Iranian intentions; the “nuke Israel” scenario is a sure-fire trigger for manipulating U.S. public opinion. This has been aided, or most likely led, by right-wing billionaires whose hold over the media and the political prostitutes in Congress guarantees a steady stream of the lies that serves their interests. By now, Israeli assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and attacks on their reactors have severed the Israel-Iran side of the triangle. In the U.S., right-wing evangelicals use their dangerous, two-faced support of Israel to make the case for our military interventions against the Islamic world.
Note: Iran would develop a nuclear arsenal if feasible, but in order to enhance its regional heft rather than for immediate use. A bomb is not its immediate objective and despite public posturing they are not about to risk their own destruction for the sake of taking a shot at Israel. Questions of their long-term attempts to enter the nuclear “club” are part of the more complex, ongoing issue of nuclear proliferation in general, which is at present unresolvable.
The Iranian nuclear threat against Israel makes no sense. Israel, a legitimate if “minor” nuclear power, most likely let it be known years ago that if an Arab or Iranian attack threatens its viability, it will nuke Middle East population centers. It’s called nuclear deterrence, which kept the U.S. and the Soviet Union from blowing each other to hell during the Cold War. Iran has nothing to gain by threatening Israel in this manner.
If we do attack Iran, the entire Middle East will collapse, drawing in Russia, giving China a field-day of opportunity, and probably de-stabilizing relations between Pakistan and India. We will be closer to World War III than at any time since the 1962 Missile Crisis, when JFK and Bobby Kennedy prevented the lathering right wing generals who were among their chief advisors from ordering a first-strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union.
4. The U.S. mainstream media, even when it is doing a good job by traditional journalistic standards, by its very nature sustains the delusions that undermine a rational foreign policy. When Mike Pompeo was appointed Trump’s CIA Director and then Secretary of State, only the alternative press explored his ties with the Koch brothers. Pompeo, politically, has belonged to the Koch brothers in much the same way that Henry Kissinger belonged to the Rockefellers. Despite recent tensions with the Kochs over trade policy, we can expect that in matters of far-reaching global impact Pompeo receives significant input from the Kochs while maintaining the fiction that he is following Trump’s policy directives, such as they are considering that Trump has exhibited zero knowledge of foreign affairs ever since taking office.
Once a Pompeo or Bolton are appointed, any mention of their masters vanishes from the mainstream media. This is supposedly a function of media “objectivity” but there is nothing “objective” about it: it is designed to perpetrate the lie that these officials now operate ex officio, purely as their formal titles infer. That is the true lie, removing the likes of Pompeo and Bolton out of their political contexts and pretending they are neutral representatives of well-considered positions. It furthers the illusion that they are conferring with a President at the fulcrum of a spirited debate between the “hard-liners” and the “more moderate” factions. Even the term “moderate” is a lie: there is nothing “moderate” about those in the Trump administration who are not pushing for war with Iran. They’re just not out of their minds. Which I suppose is the new “moderate”.
There is a similar split within the Iranian government between the “moderates” who want to preserve the Obama accord (even after Trump withdrew the U.S. from it) and the “Republican Guard” hard-liners. And while The New York Times, for instance, alludes to the Republican Guards’ black market interests in the oil trade (they also traffic in drugs, women, and weapons despite their hypocritical religiosity, but what else is new) as a factor in the diplomatic maneuvering behind the tanker attacks, it does not mention the powers and agendas behind the men—Pompeo, Bolton—who are the public faces of the U.S.’s Iran policy.
A May 22nd article by Reid Champlin on https://www.opensecrets.org, does name the powers and financing behind Bolton This information, by the way, has long been openly available to every newspaper and TV news outlet in the country. In brief, Bolton’s Political Action Groups were funded by, among others, Robert Mercer, Trump’s top donor in the 2016 campaign, to the tune of five million dollars. Bernie Marcus, Home Depot’s founder, gave half a million to Bolton’s PAC. Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, ultra-right wing supporters of Trump and Netanyahu, “personally lobbied the president to select Bolton as deputy secretary of state.”
So what might a balanced, truly objective Times report on the tanker attacks include? After describing the Revolutionary Guards’ black market interests, the Times could write:
“John Bolton, President Trump’s National Security Advisor, is funded by ultra-right wing interests with a history of: anti-Muslim agitation (Marcus); electoral manipulation (Mercer via Cambrdige Analytica); and funding Breitbart news and Steve Bannon’s networking with fascist groups (Mercer). He is a channel for political funding from a rabid anti-Iranian gambling mogul (Adelson) who suggested dropping a nuclear bomb ‘in the middle of the desert that doesn’t hurt a soul’ and then, if that doesn’t work, that we threaten to nuke Tehran. Bolton is the leader of the hard-line faction on Iran within the Trump administration.”
And that’s just Bolton, and only a part of his portfolio. So should the American people naively accept the charge that Iran is behind the tanker attacks? After the weapons of mass destruction that sucked us into Iraq? Do we believe the same government that arranged the Gulf of Tonkin attack on a U.S. ship in order to drastically escalate our involvement in Vietnam? Whose CIA under the auspices of “Operation Gladio” helped engineer the bombing of the Bologna train station that killed 85 people in 1980 so they could blame it on left-wing terrorists? That trained death squads that murdered 100,000 peasants, activists, intellectuals, priests and nuns, and politicians in Latin America and attributed the deaths to the violence of guerrilla uprisings?
I’d just as soon believe that on September 1, 1939, Poland deviously attacked poor defenseless Nazi Germany and that Hitler just had to respond with a full-scale invasion by armies that just happened to be massed on the Polish border, thus triggering World War II.
Are the Persian Gulf tankers the false flag attack that will trigger World War III?
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