War on Iran? It is too soon to reminisce about Iraq, let alone have a repeat
By Marina Hyde, Friday 23 March 2012 16.30 EDT
The thing about a supertanker is that at least you can turn it round. It takes a while, by all accounts, but you have to think any such vessel has the turning circle of a London taxi compared with the US war machine, which – like its erstwhile willing passenger Tony Blair – appears to relish its lack of a reverse gear.
Are we moving inexorably towards a strike on Iran? There is “a smell of fresh chum in the waters” again, as the rip-roaring journalist Matt Taibbi put it recently. This week, not a decade after the Iraq invasion, several former officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency accused its head of mishandling the Iranian crisis. They levelled charges of western bias, relying on dodgy intelligence, and sidelining sceptics.
This may sound vaguely familiar. In fact, the situation has all the charmless nostalgia of those I Love 1982-style shows, which saw “expert” talking heads such as Vernon Kay and Kate Thornton reminisce about everything from deely-boppers to the Falklands with no modulation of tone.
As for the talking heads of the I Love Going to War in the Middle East series, they really are amazingly familiar. I say amazingly, as yet again I must implore you to marvel at the giddy pace of the internet age, where every hard-won bit of wisdom is almost instantly lost to amnesia. It used to take close to a generation for everyone to forget the learning of a bitter foreign policy lesson and to blunder into something that forced it to be learned again. It now takes about 10 minutes.
The near immediacy of it renders fusty the idea of history repeating itself as farce. It would be farce repeating itself as farce, were it not all so sensationally unfunny. The very idea that US hawks should seek to double down on their fiascoid adventure in Iraq by aiming their sights on Iran should be deemed too far-fetched even for satire – instead, it gains daily traction in the most familiar of places. It’s not just the same news outlets; it’s the same faces.
With a handful of exceptions such as Dick Cheney, who is living off the fat of the last outing in the region, the Class of 2002 are back in business and beating the drums. All we’re currently missing is Rupert Murdoch urging Tehran regime change on the basis the west could get its hands on Iran’s oil, a rehash of his blithe 2003 assertion that war with Iraq was eminently desirable as it would bring the price of oil down to $20 a barrel. That worked out well, you may recall. Crude prices soared, and are currently hovering around $105 a barrel. But then what does it matter with people’s goldfish-like memories?
Perhaps the closest analogy for these resurgent warmongers are the economists who failed to predict even the vaguest problems with the sub-prime mortgage market, let alone the global financial crisis. Yet somehow they still shamelessly populate the airwaves, spouting predictions and judgments, which unfathomably never end with the anchor saying: “Mmm. We’re going to interrupt you to hear from a cauliflower, because you’ve got to think it knows more about this stuff than you.” And so with the creatures of the US military-industrial complex, somehow able to pick themselves up from the what should have been career-ending humiliation and call for more of the same. They clearly possess some bizarre, Weeble-style self-righting mechanism, and at some level I suppose you have to admire the chutzpah.
But while the amnesia cycle contracts every time, the one thing that takes far longer than it used to is extricating ourselves from these wars. The Republican party seems to need them more than ever, unified only when defining themselves against the so-called common enemy.
So here we go again. The airwaves and newswires teem with politicians and pundits shrieking and pointing at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s years-old exhortation to “wipe Israel off the map”, even though this translation has been repeatedly debunked – a fact that conveniently never sticks with those seeking to make hay. And once again, their strident voices drown out the experts.
Consider the former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, a man who might reasonably be assumed to be among the knowledgeable on the Iranian regime, who earlier this month took the wildly unusual step of speaking out about the absolute folly of any such strike. “Bombing Iran now is the stupidest idea I have ever heard,” ran his Fox News-ready quote – which received the lack of airplay you’d expect on the channel.
Similarly disregarded by armchair hawks was his insistence that Ahmadinejad is not the madman of expedient discourse, but rational. “Not exactly our rationale,” he qualified, “but I think that he is rational”.
“We are going to ignite, at least from my point of view, a regional war,” was his grim warning. “And wars, you know how they start. You never know how you are ending it.”
You don’t. On the form book, you’d have a fiver on us being mired in hellish mess and untold carnage of our own making for the bare minimum of a decade. But of course, our results could go down as well as up.