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Indybay Feature

Are you kidding me, Dershowitz?

by Shane Skavdahl
This piece is my response to Alan Dershowitz's argument on ReasonTV that the growing aggressiveness of Iran towards the West could necessitate a preemptive strike against the theocratic regime. I point out the mirrored rhetoric used over two decades ago when the decision was being made to invade Iraq. The primary concern here is that Iran serves as a greater threat to US stability than Iraq ever did, and because of that foreign policy disaster, we should eschew the doctrine of preemptive approach, in this case, unless we truly want to reap what we have sewn.
After listening to a debate on ReasonTV’s YouTube channel between Alan Dershowitz and Glen Greenwald on the topic of preemptively attacking Iran, my only question is - “Are you kidding me, Dershowitz?” Calling for the preemptive bombing of Iran might allow some people to recall the almost verbatim tactical rhetoric used against Iraq and Saddam Hussein’s regime starting at the end of the Persian Gulf War. Back then, policymakers and public relations experts in Washington were riling up against Iraq and agitating for its takedown. Neoconservative writers and journalists, like William Kristol and Robert Kagan, published pieces in The New York Times and The Washington Post as early 1996, making the case for offensive strategy with Iraq, and explicitly endorsing that option as to put it on the table as the most viable. The claim was made that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destructions, Saddam Hussein was planning on using them, and they could destroy Israel or any Western-friendly Arab country instantaneously, because Iraq in this sense was a nuclear state.

Similar reflections between the friendliness of China with Iraq in the early 2000’s are being cast within the context of Iran. of course, China was a provocateur of anti-Iranian dissent, starting with their procuring of materials suitable for enriching uranium to the point of making the compound weapons-grade in the mid-1990s. Back then China feared US reprisal, and stopped selling materials to Iran by 1997. However -are the arguments we are hearing from Alan Dershowitz any different from that of the American-Israeli lobbyists who have wanted to bomb both Iran and Iraq since the 1990’s? It would be hard to argue today that the Ba’athist regime in Baghdad was as existential a threat to the United States as Americans were led to believe. The Islamic Republic of Iran with its theocratically-responsive impulses is indeed a large threat to the West if one was to entertain the possibility of an armed conflict, one that could see entrance by Russia, China and North Korea; the difference with Iran versus Iraq is - can we afford to go that far? Israel? Quite possibly. During the beginning of Gulf War, the Iraqi military launched 42 Scud missiles over Israel, mostly at Tel Aviv and Haifa. Saddam Hussein’s objective was to pull Israel directly into the war between Iraq and the Arab coalition. His hope was that Israel, which had enormous support from much of the Arab World and much of their funding at this point, would then lose that support, when other Arabs saw the “Zionist rockets” over Iraq’s skies. The Israelis, under US guidance, did not respond to the attacks. Instead Iraq later fail remarkably during Desert Storm, maintaining Israel’s sovereignty without having them lift a finger, too. Nonetheless, after the Iraqi army returned to Iraq without Kuwait, and hit with new sanctions, the desire to pursue Saddam further was evident. Thus, the Iraqi National Congress was created in 1991, after the Gulf War, as an opposition party to Saddam and the Ba’athist political structure. The deceptive origins of the INC are found in Washington DC within the walls of The Rendon Group, a public relations firm that received millions of dollars for years to prop up the INC in Iraq. The leader of the party, Ahmed Chalabi, was a Shia Iraqi who wasn’t exactly the “enemy” to Iran. Whether or not the CIA worked with Iran’s intelligence services to aid in bringing Saddam Hussein down in what the perception management team at The Rendon Group called “legitimate opposition” is another question to be answered.

To return to Dersh, who is arguing from this offensive standpoint during the debate, the message cannot be made any more clear to his audience - if we perceive a threat, then any lateral move could in theory become justified. Retroactive determination can cease relevance. In the case of Iraq, there is 100% recorded evidence of Saddam’s use of chemical agents on the Kurds in 1988. Thus, there was a basis to assume the capabilities of the Iraqi weapons program could be advanced over time. Though, it turned out to not be the case (still waiting on that apology from Judith Miller). With Iran, fighting the proliferation of nuclear technology within the hands of the regime has been a battle since before 1996, when, like in the aforementioned case of Iran’s government defying US sanctions to destroy the progress made on the uranium enrichment infrastructure they had worked on, with the help of China. There is no doubt they are a threat to be deterred. Until Iran exercises its supposed power, until the people feel that their lives are at stake, the arguments for bombing should cease. Bombing Iran would lead to two things, for certain; a response at some level from Iran themselves, as well as retaliation by their proxy forces in Lebanon and Yemen against Israeli and US/Saudi interests, respectively; and a nod to the whole China-Russia-Iran-North Korea axis that the United States is ready to go back to war to sink the Middle East back into the patch of dirt from which their states arose.
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