Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Big Show

Okay, I think we all get it now -- Ahmadinejad is a little wingy, a little showy and preachy, even ridiculous at times. Not a serious person who should be leading a responsible power.

Sounds familiar.

Instead, the U.S. State Department denounced Ahmadinejad as himself little more than a terrorist. Critics have also cited his statements about the Holocaust or his hopes that the Israeli state will collapse. He has been depicted as a Hitler figure intent on killing Israeli Jews, even though he is not commander in chief of the Iranian armed forces, has never invaded any other country, denies he is an anti-Semite, has never called for any Israeli civilians to be killed, and allows Iran's 20,000 Jews to have representation in Parliament.

There is, in fact, remarkably little substance to the debates now raging in the United States about Ahmadinejad. His quirky personality, penchant for outrageous one-liners, and combative populism are hardly serious concerns for foreign policy. Taking potshots at a bantam cock of a populist like Ahmadinejad is actually a way of expressing another, deeper anxiety: fear of Iran's rising position as a regional power and its challenge to the American and Israeli status quo. The real reason his visit is controversial is that the American right has decided the United States needs to go to war against Iran. Ahmadinejad is therefore being configured as an enemy head of state.

That's pretty much it, all that's left is getting the marketing campaign rolling. Easier said than done; even the military advisors are backing away from this one. They've got their hands full as it is. So what's left is to consistently portray Ahmadinejad as a strutting, preening buffoon tweaking the nose of his betters. (Not that he doesn't make it easy for them to do so.)

The howls from the critics in the wake of Ahmadinejad's offer to lay a wreath at Ground Zero were something else. As if Benito Giuliani's shriveled cock and Count Chocula presence could ever be pried out of there, so anyone else could squeeze in. Not gonna happen.

So what's left is self-righteous lectures about Iranian support for terrorist groups, as if we don't support terrorist thugs like the MEK in Iran, under the guise of "democracy building". (Hint: the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq is not democratic, lest the name fool you. I believe it means "Kittens and Rainbows" in Arabic.)

In the end, you have to assume that we're heading to war because this is the way our leaders want it. Nothing else makes sense. Bush has his Majlis just like Ahmadinejad, they just wear Armani suits instead of robes and turbans and ZZ Top beards. And how they choose to go about it is textbook propaganda.

Would there be such fatalist expectation of a strike on Iran if Mohammad Khatami were still president? Try as Fox might, the reformist advocate of a "Dialogue Among Civilizations" could not be made to put on the Hitler mustache. If the United States wanted a diplomatic solution and a rapprochement with Tehran, he was their man. But it didn't, and he wasn't. In 2003 the Swiss ambassador to the US carried a proposal from Khatami to negotiate a resolution to all outstanding issues, including Iran's nuclear program and a two-state solution to Israel and Palestine. Washington's reaction was to censure the Swiss ambassador.

In Detroit, as in many cities and nations ruled by kleptocrats who are aliens to their own citizens, infrastructure has been starved of public funds, and tens of thousands have found themselves without water. Why? To make circumstances so dire that any solution offered will be taken as an escape from institutionalized misery. And the only solution the rulers offer is privatization.

Spurning Khatami's overtures and the season of conciliation from Iran toughened its hardliners, but it wasn't a missed opportunity for Washington. It was the last thing they wanted, while Ahmadinejad is just the devil they needed. ("US Focus on Ahmadinejad Puzzles Iranians," reads a New York Times headline today. “The United States pays too much attention to Ahmadinejad," an Iranian political scientist is quoted. “He is not that consequential.”) Why? To sharpen the tensions to such a point that opinion makers determine the situation cannot be allowed to continue. And the only solution the rulers offer is violence.

When the only choices being offered keep coming down to death or chi-chi, and open, serious debate is nothing more than a dog-and-pony show with barely token opposition followed by rote cringing, then we have to start thinking about ways to get ourselves back into the decision-making loop, and stop dicking around with false compromise and gutless capitulation.

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