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Who’s afraid of Ahmadinejad?

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As worries of a showdown between the U.S. and Iran increase, so does the Cold War déjà vu. The techniques that the neoconservatives pioneered during the Reagan years have been retooled, and are once again being used to ensure that U.S. ascendancy continues unchallenged.

When the Soviet Union rose to challenge the United States’ global hegemony during the Cold War, the neoconservatives created a culture of fear, fabricating nightmares that manifested themselves in what came to be known as the Reagan doctrine.

What most people don’t know is that the entire threat was contrived by the CIA and perpetuated by the media: the “Evil Empire” never sought global preeminence, and had no plans to attack until the U.S. media drummed up war hysteria on behalf of the neocons.

Today, the threat posed by Iran is similarly imaginary: an Islamic country supposedly hell-bent on wiping out Israel by use of nuclear weapons and pursuing an Isalmization agenda throughout the Western World.

Fear not. America’s noble politicians will protect us from the new menace…but can we really count on the U.S., itself one of the greatest threats to global stability, to police the world? As Noam Chomsky said in 1990, “If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.”

From the invasions of Vietnam, Cuba, Lebanon, Panama, Grenada, Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq, to the bombing of Cambodia and pharmaceutical plants in Sudan, to sponsoring dictatorships in Arab and Latin American countries, to supporting militaristic coups against democratically elected governments that didn’t agree with them (such as Juan Bosch of the Dominican Republic), the U.S. has started more conflagrations in the latter half of the 20th century than any other country.

By contrast, Iran hasn’t started a single war in 300 years.

There’s no doubt that the current Iranian regime has undertaken a series of actions that appear calculated to sabotage any détente with the U.S., but that’s only half of it. A history lesson is in order:

During the long rule of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Iran was a staunch ally of the U.S. The Shah was brought to power by a British-led coup in 1941, lost power briefly to the popular nationalist leader Muhammed Mosaddeq in 1953, and regained leadership in another coup sponsored by the CIA. The Shah was notorious for his brutal secret police force, Savak, which was formed with the CIA’s help.

The Shah, loved by the U.S. but increasingly hated by the Iranian people, was no less a tyrant than the recently deposed “Butcher of Baghdad,” Saddam Hussein. But he could be counted on to side with the U.S., and was therefore a “friend” regardless.

But tyrants can only stay in power for so long before their victims turn against them and their sponsors. This is precisely what happened in 1979 when the Islamic Revolution erupted and the Shah was replaced with Ayatollah Khomeini, who proclaimed the U.S. “the Great Satan.” It’s not hard to see why Iran has been steadfastly defiant to U.S. bullying, especially when it comes to their nuclear program. (It should also be noted that, shortly after the Iran-Iraq war ended, a U.S. warship shot down an Iranian commercial airliner, killing 290 people, and still hasn’t apologized.)

The neoconservatives conjectured that Iran’s defiant attitude regarding its nuclear program, coupled with its leader’s “death threats” to Israel, pose a threat to world peace. Bush also erroneously stated that Iran wanted “nuclear weapons to destroy people.” Yet the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear intentions and capabilities states the following: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program …We [also] assess with moderate confidence [that] Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007.” There’s no evidence to suggest that Ahmadinejad’s alleged threats against Israel are any more than heated rhetoric, and certainly prominent Likud members have made some heated suggetsions themselves.

The U.S. media has repeatedly misquoted and spun his words. CBS’s 60 Minutes omitted a sentence on peace in the Middle East from the final cut of an interview, and deliberately misquoted him as saying that his country was entitled to “nuclear weapons,” when in fact he was referring to nuclear energy. But that’s the modus operandi of major media outlets: deliberate prevarication, which fosters ignorance. On several occasions, Ahmadinejad has said explicitly that he has “no plans to attack Israel.” But the U.S. media never reports on this, because Iran is the enemy. It’s not in their interest to arouse calls for a U.S.-Iran détente. And let’s not forget that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that refuses to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and bars international inspections, and the only country in the Middle East in defiance of 69 United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Nobody commissioned the U.S. to preserve world peace. An EU poll showed that the majority of Europeans believed the U.S. and Israel to be the biggest threats to world peace, beating out Iran. But this is the new world order, where you can say and do whatever you want if you’re a global hegemon, where the U.S. can nuke any non-nuclear country at will. Let’s just hope that, in due time, America will see the irony in trying to limit nuclear proliferation by threatening to nuke other countries—a strategy that will inevitably result in the reverse and put the future of our planet at risk.