American Unhistory or Bombing Iran by Marc Leeds Friday, April 14, 2006 If you think Americans have trouble with

math, that is nothing compared with how terribly stupid and blind we are concerning history. This is not an indictment of the American educational system, that’s for another occasion. This is about our inability to learn from history. Oh, how tired this topic is, and we haven’t even gotten to the subject of the hour. Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker magazine reports that the United States is making contingency plans to preemptively attack Iran’s nuclear enrichment and support facilities before they can develop weapons grade nuclear materials. Hersh may not be liked in many establishment quarters, but his reputation for breaking stories from My Lai to Abu Ghraib is unassailable. Expert military analysts believe this could slow down Iran’s efforts for anywhere from two to five years. Then what? Does the United States launch another attack? Wait for a more agreeable government to be democratically elected, one that will neither pursue nuclear enrichment nor threaten Israel? Or do we repeat America’s 1953 mistake of organizing a coup and installing a government of our choosing? That last option gave us the Shah of Iran, and that eventually led to the 1979 student riots in Tehran resulting in the overthrow of the Shah and what is commonly referred to as the Iranian Hostage Crisis. That 444-day ordeal helped elect Ronald Reagan president and solidified a hardline theocracy in Iran, the seminal moment in creating the current staredown between Muslims and the Western world. It’s too easy to blame Islamic extremists for all the various crises coming out of the Middle East. That is not to say that Islamic fundamentalism is without fault. Fundamentalism of any stripe is dangerous, just look at the assault on personal freedoms by the politically savvy Christian right wing in the United States. And wasn’t it a sitting four-star general and Army Chief who proclaimed, in uniform, that “our God is stronger than their God.” That’s the kind of thinking that starts rock throwing, except that generals with such mindsets have really big rocks they can throw. So getting back to the matter of bombing our sand-bound, oil rich, towel-headed, nuclear capable, anti-Christian nemesis forward to the year 2011 (the estimated outer limits for their full nuclear recovery after our muscle-flexing), what do we do then? What would Jesus do? That’s really the question our right-wing government should be asking itself, but Jesus did not wear robes with embroidered patches from sponsors in the military/energy-industrial complex. History must be our guide on this point. We failed to make friends in Iran in 1953; we lost the ethical high-ground achieved post World War II with our persecution of Vietnam; we failed to make friends in South America when we supported Pinochet; and our

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embargo against Fidel’s Cuba is a failure. Our decision-making capabilities have proven shortsighted at best, and that’s putting it mildly. The reality is that our leaders’ narrow views are bound by the election cycle and the deep corporate pockets that help candidates pander to a religiously hijacked right wing that continues to vote against its own best interests. If our current predicaments, from oil dependency to poorly chosen political alliances, are to be resolved with the prospect of greater economic, political, and human justice outcomes, then perhaps we can look back to the poignant lessons to be learned in History 101 and the words of President George Washington’s Farewell Address. Among many other wise pronouncements, Washington (with input from James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Chief Justice John Jay), tells America to “avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty.” For some it is cliché to recall the words of our founding fathers this way. Many would argue that the world has so radically changed that such maxims of the past no longer apply as they once did. Three-cornered hats may be quaint for the tourists, but such philosophizing is no longer the strength of America. How sad. The nation was once enraptured by the prospect of liberty and equality. It’s cliché to bring up such matters now unless it is in the context of the theater or the study of antiquities. We need to learn that we cannot bomb our way out of the prospect of a nuclear Iran. If our desire is to ward off nuclear proliferation, then not only must another way be found but we must be prepared to apply more enlightened strategies with other countries wishing to develop such technologies—because surely there will be others. And perhaps enlightenment is what we should be studying. It’s another one of those quaint notions that eventually gave rise to the American Revolution.

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