Hi,

This is just a letter of support from an overseas observer (sorry), but I do have a brother, sister in law and nephews who are American. Every time I hear of or encounter Dr Ron Paul makes me smile. Dr Paul’s humanity and integrity really shine through in way that is very, very obvious to me. Even if he doesn’t make the nomination I think he has the chance to make an big impact on the race. He is also doing a wonderful job of promoting sane and exciting conservatism—which is very exciting indeed. The articles in the American Conservative are probably the best around, and I like a lot of what Pat Buchanan is saying too. It seems that because the liberals have been to happy to just throw insults they haven’t been thinking anything like as clearly.

It may come as a surprise but I am traditionally very liberal, but I am also religious and have always liked the idea of keeping things small, that centralising power often leads to bigger problems than it tries to solve. I think this is a view that liberals may be becoming increasingly open to (and there has always been a fringe that thinks this way).

It seems to me that the main parties have become ridiculously similar and travesties of their principles, and entirely beholden to corporate interests. This has become so obvious. However there are some interesting similarities between free thinking liberals and conservatives—the importance of restoring the constitution, an ethical foreign policy and the destructiveness of unfettered trade—the way it allows the strong to prey on the weak, especially for corporations to exploit individuals.

The most exciting thing that could happen would be for Paul to team up with a prominent liberal who is sick of pandering to the system. Of course both candidates would have to compromise (there would have to be a serious programme to tackle environmental issues, for example), but I think it would be very interesting. The problem is that some of Dr Paul’s positions would cause enormous distress to large sections of the country, so while I admire the integrity of the programme I doubt if it is practical to implement all of it in one shot—it would in a sense be very undemocratic. (But I think it makes much sense in the long run, but some things might take time.) In working out a joint programme you would come up with more than enough to fill a term without starting a revolution! It could be very exciting; if it didn’t work it might give the main parties such a fright that they might come back to their senses. I don’t seriously think it will happen but I am sorry that it won’t as I am sure it would be the best thing for the country. The stupid, childish culture wars should be put behind us. They are one big excuse for lazy thinking.

Sorry if this sounds garbled. Anyhow best of luck.

Chris Dornan

31st October 2007

Dear David Lepper,

I am writing to you about our government’s support for the US policy towards Iran, and especially the Iranian nuclear programme. Folly would be the kindest description for it—Vladimir Putin’s recent likening of US policy to a ‘madman on the loose with a razor blade’ (we would say axe of course) seems entirely appropriate. It looks as if the UK government is (again) on course to partake in war crimes, with far-reaching consequences for all of us, which may ‘blow back’ much more quickly than the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Although my letter is longer than I would have liked, I have confined it to the bigger picture, enclosing copies of other letters that focus on different aspects of what I say here (especially, trying to understand the Iranian perspective). (You can read this and the other letters on line at https://chrisdornan.wordpress.com/, the advantage of reading them on-line being that the supporting articles are cross referenced through hypertext links).

A recently published opinion poll found that that about half of Americans support a military strike against Iran and about half think it is likely to happen before the current administration leaves office. The following extract from Arthur Herman’s article at the Britannica Blog might give a sense of how may Americans may view the situation (and it also gives an excellent insight into the way some in US [vice-]presidential intellectual circles are thinking):

Is there a military option against Iran that goes beyond bombing but does not require a Iraq-style invasion and occupation – in other words that avoids another “quagmire” in the Middle East? In fact, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, a realistic war scenario with Iran would involve an extensive air and naval campaign without a single American soldier having to set foot on Iranian soil:

1. The first step would be a United States naval blockade of the Straits of Hormuz backed by anti-missile Aegis class cruisers and destroyers, together with a guarantee of free passage for all non-Iranian oil shipping (thus reassuring the world that energy supplies will continue to flow).

2. At the same time, American Stealth fighters and bombers would target Iran’s air defense and anti-ship missile sites scattered around the Gulf, followed by what military analysts call an “Effects Based Operation,” as Air Force and Navy warplanes took out Iran’s extremely vulnerable military and economic infrastructure, including its electrical grid, transportation links, gasoline refineries, port facilities, as well as suspected nuclear sites.

3. Finally, American Special Ops and airborne forces would seize Iran’s main oil pumping station at Kargh Island and capture or neutralize its offshore oil facilities.

Far fetched?

Although the American public never noticed, the United States Navy managed to accomplish much the same thing during the so-called Tanker War in 1987-8, when Iran tried to widen its war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq by attacking foreign oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. Our navy managed both to destroy the Iranian navy and protect shipping through the Hormuz Straits in order to keep the world economy stable, while Navy Seal teams blew up and neutralized key Iranian oil platforms in the Gulf.

Fantastically expensive?

From start to finish, such an operation would probably require no more than one more carrier group than is already in the area, as well as one Airborne Brigade Combat Team and one Marine Expeditionary Brigade, combined with Special Ops units-fewer troops than reinforced General Petraeus’s current surge in Iraq. In a matter of days or weeks, the key components of the Iranian oil industry would be in American hands even as Iran itself ground to a halt. Iranian crude oil would continue to flow to the world’s economy. Foreign investors in Iran’s energy industry like Russia and China would see their investments kept safe, which would help to defuse their predictable outrage over unilateral military action against Iran. [My Emphasis]

Far from a near-universal condemnation of this other neoconservative trial balloons we hear hardly a squawk (Rowan Williams’spotentially murderous folly’ comment being exceptional). No wonder their tails are up. However, if we leave planet Neocon and return to the real world we find an ex-US Navy commander painting a different picture.

The Air Force’s ubiquitous argument against the efficacy of Navy ships operating in restricted hostile waters is that they offer relatively little striking power in return for the vulnerability they present. This is particularly true in the Persian Gulf where Iran’s naval forces enjoy significant asymmetric advantages over ours. If I’m planning a surgical strike on Iran and want to maximize force protection, I get the Navy out of the Gulf. Operating from the North Arabian Sea limits the set of targets in Iran that carrier based jets can reach, but I suspect the Air Force has plenty of manned aircraft available for missions requiring air breathing pilots, and the Navy’s cruise missiles, only having to go one way on each mission, have a sufficient un-refueled combat radius to hit whatever they have to hit.

If I’m the Navy, of course, I’m not wild about leaving the Gulf because it will look like I ran away from the fight (because, in essence, I will have.) What’s more, once I leave the Gulf and the fight starts, it may be a long time, if ever, before I can get back in, and then how will I ever justify my share of the defense budget again?

Fortunately or unfortunately for the Navy, it will probably stay in the Gulf to serve as a casus belli. A torpedo in the side of an amphibious ship carrying Marines or a destroyer losing its bow to a mine or an anti-ship cruise missile cooking off in a carrier’s hangar bay will give the Cheney gang all the justification it needs to unilaterally declare general war against Iran

You’d like to think the administration wouldn’t sacrifice an armed service that way just to enable a Dick Cheney foreign policy initiative. But look at what they did with the Army and Marine Corps in Iraq.

(About this time last year the Navy deployed a recently-refurbished USS Eisenhower to the region, but was replaced with an older carrier, Nimitz, in April; some have speculated that this may have been done to limit the damage of the above scenario.) Indeed elements inside the US military are obviously aware of the frightful risks of such an adventure and these senior commanders are probably all that has prevented the show from hitting the road already. Central Command (CENTCOM) Chief Admiral William Fallon has reported that he will resign if there is any attempt to attack Iran (the chemistry between Fallon and his subordinate, general Petraeus, commander of Iraq forces, is apparently testy, Fallon reportedly telling Petraeus that he considered him to be “an ass-kissing little chickenshit”, adding, “I hate people like that”; the American Conservative article, Sycophant Savior, sheds some more light on this), so the latest thinking is that the President will propose a limited strike in response to an attack on the Army or Marines in Iraq, which Fallon won’t be able to refuse, and the Iranian response will be used as a pretext launch the real bombardment. All the indications are that this has at least the tacit support of the UK government.

It is worth trying to understand where this situation may be taking us. In times past people used to think it was important to try and anticipate and avoid dangerous and unstable situations, but this kind of caution (except where some US naval officers are concerned) seems to no longer be the thing. A faith based approach to these matters is more fashionable where we hope it will all turn out fine. None of what I have to say may happen, but I have seen several discussions from grounded and knowledgeable people that include the following developments after an attack on Iran. Indeed everything might turn out just fine. But given that some things that I never would have dreamt of ever, ever being said by responsible people now seem to be routine fare, I am can’t be so sanguine.

The US public, or at least the roughly half of it that is keen to get on with kicking Iranian ass, is on the above fantastical Arthur Herman-type script, so, if the Iranians do succeed in reducing some or all of the 5th fleet in the Gulf to smoking ruins the shock will be profound, at which point things start to become unpredictable. The Nuclear Posture Review allows for the use of nuclear weapons to protect the military from a significant (even conventional) threat.

Alternatively, if the navy does clear out of the gulf leaving the USAF to bombard the Iranians, then there will be little to stop the Iranians taking control of the straits of Hormuz and closing it off until the world has agreed to bring the war criminals to justice. 20% of the world’s oil flows though the straits, with no spare capacity in the system. Do you remember the impact of the fuel protests in 2000? The disruption to the world economy (and the world) will be severe. What happens here is equally unpredictable; we could see an escalation that includes an intensified bombardment by the USAF to get the Iranians to back off, possibly followed by attacks on the Iraqi garrison by the Iranians, jeopardising their supply lines, again risking an American nuclear strike.

If Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other repressive American clients with overwhelmingly Muslim populations aren’t destabilised by such an assault it would be a miracle.

Nothing is more common than to read of American and British analysts sneering at Russians protests over NATO encroachment (reviving cold-war type bomber reconnaissance sorties, etc.) as a sign of strategic weakness but this is not the only reading. The end of cheap oil and gas has arrived, and Russia has huge reserves, and as the price rockets Russia’s position will strengthen. However, the Americans (and the UK),are utterly dependent on it, nearly all US strategic military deployments being an effort to try and secure the oil habit, and it won’t be so funny, with the dollar collapsing, the Chinese economy hitting the buffers and unable to finance the US deficit. Indeed the fuel bill for the Pentagon is itself enormous and this could pose some problems in itself; the US strategic petroleum reserves will be used but the shock will still be profound.

This is a kind of strength is not dissimilar to that of Saddam Hussein’s in 1990 after the end of the War with Iran, sitting astride a vast and unsustainable military machine, which to be sure can inflict immense destruction, but is actually of little constructive use to its owner, and indeed a crushing burden.

The Iranians represent no immediate threat to anybody of course. In outline, the facts are as follows.

  • The USA, UK and the Islamic Republic of Iran are signatories to the NPT which guarantees that nuclear-capable states (the USA and the UK) must assist non-nuclear signatories (Iran) to acquire uranium enrichment technology for peaceful use.
  • Iran has a strong strategic requirement to diversify its means of generating electricity, has always insisted it’s programme is peaceful, has subjected itself to the most stringent inspection regime of any IAEA member, and the IAEA director, Mohamed ElBaradei, reminded us (again) on Sunday “I have not received any information that there is a concrete active nuclear weapons program going on right now”.
  • President Ahmadinejad never said that he would ‘wipe Israel off the map’, Iran has not attacked any nation in modern history and there is no evidence that Iran poses a military threat to anyone now or in the future. Yet the most senior members of the US administration continue to misrepresent President Ahmadinejad’s October 2005 comments suggesting they have no serious interest whatsoever in finding a diplomatic solution.
  • The US government continues to feed a stream of allegations into the public domain that Iran is destabilising Iraq and Afghanistan and assisting the insurgency, yet no objective evidence to support these allegations is forthcoming. The governments of Afghanistan, Iraq and now Turkey continue to praise Iran’s constructive relationship while (especially Iraq and Afghanistan) criticizing US military short-sightedness and brutality, the Iraqi government vigorously objecting to the US military supplying arms to paramilitaries in Anbar. (The US military and the Iraqi governments have different objectives of course; when the paramilitaries in Anbar find an alternative use for their guns the US military can, if they are consistent with past behaviour, simply blame Iran. When has an army failing to defeat guerrillas ever not blamed outsiders for their woes?)

The Iranians have also finished hosting a successful Caspian Sea littoral states summit. Yet the our press continues to push this fantasy that Iran is some pariah, rogue state, a threat to its neighbours.

The Iraqi fiasco seems to have left us with a contempt for all of reality and ethics. The people who sold us the bill of goods, those responsible for the ongoing Mesopotamian holocaust, ought to be in the Hague spending more time with their lawyers, but they remain among us. The recent Chinese and Russian statements were models of good sense, that seems entirely absent inside the American imperium.

We in the West seem to have lost any sense of ourselves and continue to rely on a vast military arsenal to construct our own reality, shred treaty obligations and destroy anybody who gets in our way. (The USA, of course, spends more than a half of the combined total that the rest of the world spends on arms.) Are we like the good Germans in the 1930s “looking from the side”, our minds numbed and pickled in propaganda, with all sense of ethics and reality collectively dissolving?

President Bush is apparently confident that God speaks to him and some evangelical Christians believe that the End Times are approaching, but that when the conflagration arrives they will float up out of their clothes into heaven. Maybe. The coming times could certainly be extremely challenging, with society and the environment breaking up, the kind of times where it would be useful to have an (authentic) religious faith and practice, but it would really be much better if we could find a better way, and we surely can if choose to. There is much scope for the Iraq chaos to start spreading to consume more than just foreigners and poor kids. Are we really doing everything we can to try and minimise the chances of this happening?

Yours sincerely,

Chris Dornan

30th October 2007

Tel.: 07857 795985

From: Chris Dornan, Brighton

Dear Sir,

Re: A counter-productive display of international machismo

After your sharp analysis leading up to and through the Iraq hell-disaster you seem to be losing your edge. Your narrative is superficially reasonable but a closer look reveals that it is facilitating the Bush administration’s long drive to war with Iran.

The principle facts of the case are as follows.

  • The USA, UK and the Islamic Republic of Iran are signatories to the NPT which guarantees that nuclear-capable states (the USA and the UK) must assist non-nuclear signatories (Iran) to acquire uranium enrichment technology for peaceful use.
  • Iran has a strong strategic requirement to diversify its means of generating electricity, has always insisted it’s programme is peaceful, has subjected itself to the most stringent inspection regime of any IAEA member, and the IAEA director, Mohamed ElBaradei, reminded us (again) on Sunday “I have not received any information that there is a concrete active nuclear weapons program going on right now”.
  • President Ahmadinejad never said that he would ‘wipe Israel off the map’, Iran has not attacked any nation in modern history and there is no evidence that Iran poses a military threat to anyone now or in the future. Yet the most senior members of the US administration continue to misrepresent President Ahmadinejad’s October 2005 comments suggesting they have no serious interest whatsoever in finding a diplomatic solution.
  • The US government continues to feed a stream of allegations into the public domain that Iran is destabilising Iraq and Afghanistan and assisting the insurgency, yet no objective evidence to support these allegations is forthcoming. The governments of Afghanistan, Iraq and now Turkey continue to praise Iran’s constructive relationship while (especially Iraq and Afghanistan) criticizing US military short-sightedness and brutality, objecting strenuously to the US military supplying arms to paramilitaries in Anbar. (The US military and the Iraqi governments have different objectives of course; when the paramilitaries find a less satisfactory use for their guns the Americans can always blame Iran.)

In 2003 we heard shrieks of a new nuclear-armed terrorist-supporting Hitler is endangering the international community and a million violent deaths and many millions of displaced people later we see them rerunning exactly the same programme, with the Iranians apparently being blamed for the countries on their eastern and western borders having their civil society and infrastructure destroyed, and being bogged down in seemingly endless civil wars.  And it is working a treat!

Everywhere good people seem to be turning the other way and shrugging their shoulders. Those pesky obstinate Iranians eh. Are we the new ‘good Germans’, ground down by an unending stream of propaganda?

There is apparently no consensus on exactly what scuppered the Mayans. Long after Bush and his elected pals leave us to fry while they fly up out of their clothes into the heavens to meet their maker, when future archaeologists and anthropologists are trying to put the pieces together, they too will probably be just as puzzled. Of course they will be trying to rely on logic. Suckers.

Chris Dornan

Brighton

P.S. Hint if anyone wants to work out what is going before it is too late, try Target Iran: The Truth about the US government’s plans for regime change, Ritter’s articles at Target Iran?, at the Britannica Blog or at truthdig; the letters I have written to various public figures are on my blog are supported with references, especially the Letter to Jimmy Carter.)

P.S. Once the disposition of the parties is understood they look more rational and less obstinate.

For the USA, excluding the (scandalously) irrelevant State Department, the title Ritter’s book (Target Iran: The Truth about the US government’s plans for regime change) says all you need to know about the US government intentions, the only meaningful resistance coming from within the Pentagon (otherwise the rubber surely would have hit the road by now). As for the Iranians, they know perfectly well that the Europeans, like the Democrats and the state department (and almost everyone else in the ‘west’ it seems), for a variety of reasons, seem set to let the neocon crazies take their project to the next stage, and we can get a taster of their thought processes from Arthur Herman’s article at the Britannica Blog:

Is there a military option against Iran that goes beyond bombing but does not require a Iraq-style invasion and occupation – in other words that avoids another “quagmire” in the Middle East? In fact, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, a realistic war scenario with Iran would involve an extensive air and naval campaign without a single American soldier having to set foot on Iranian soil:

1. The first step would be a United States naval blockade of the Straits of Hormuz backed by anti-missile Aegis class cruisers and destroyers, together with a guarantee of free passage for all non-Iranian oil shipping (thus reassuring the world that energy supplies will continue to flow).

2. At the same time, American Stealth fighters and bombers would target Iran’s air defense and anti-ship missile sites scattered around the Gulf, followed by what military analysts call an “Effects Based Operation,” as Air Force and Navy warplanes took out Iran’s extremely vulnerable military and economic infrastructure, including its electrical grid, transportation links, gasoline refineries, port facilities, as well as suspected nuclear sites.

3. Finally, American Special Ops and airborne forces would seize Iran’s main oil pumping station at Kargh Island and capture or neutralize its offshore oil facilities.

Far fetched?

Although the American public never noticed, the United States Navy managed to accomplish much the same thing during the so-called Tanker War in 1987-8, when Iran tried to widen its war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq by attacking foreign oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. Our navy managed both to destroy the Iranian navy and protect shipping through the Hormuz Straits in order to keep the world economy stable, while Navy Seal teams blew up and neutralized key Iranian oil platforms in the Gulf.

Fantastically expensive?

From start to finish, such an operation would probably require no more than one more carrier group than is already in the area, as well as one Airborne Brigade Combat Team and one Marine Expeditionary Brigade, combined with Special Ops units-fewer troops than reinforced General Petraeus’s current surge in Iraq. In a matter of days or weeks, the key components of the Iranian oil industry would be in American hands even as Iran itself ground to a halt. Iranian crude oil would continue to flow to the world’s economy. Foreign investors in Iran’s energy industry like Russia and China would see their investments kept safe, which would help to defuse their predictable outrage over unilateral military action against Iran. [My Emphasis]

With trial balloons like this raising hardly a squawk from the mainstream media it is no wonder they are encouraged. This project has been under way for a long time. Ritter finished his mid 2005 Al Jazeera article The US War with Iran has Already Begun: “We now know that the war [with Iraq] had started much earlier. Likewise, history will show that the US-led war with Iran will not have begun once a similar formal statement is offered by the Bush administration, but, rather, had already been under way since June 2005, when the CIA began its programme of MEK-executed terror bombings in Iran.” See also The Secret History of the Impending War with Iran That the White House Doesn’t Want You to Know for a first-hand account of the diplomatic perspective of the Bush government’s treatment of Iran going back to 2001.

Faced with the kind of full-spectrum aggression, with two possible scenarios in which the Bush administration could deploy tactical nuclear weapons (according to the Nuclear Posture Review), the Iranians are well advised to remain firm. No attempts by the Iraqis or the Taliban to reason with the beast was of the slightest benefit. Vladimir Putin is not alone in observing that the Bush administration have lost all sense of boundaries—many Americans, even the likes of Francis Fukuyama, are coming to the same conclusion.

See earlier letters on chrisdornan.blogspot.com.

Dear David Cameron,

Thank you for explaining your policy position.

There are two problems with it though. In principle it violates the spirit and letter of the NPT, to which the UK and the Islamic Republic of Iran are signatories. In practice it passively facilitates the Bush administration’s upcoming war with Iran, and indeed it facilitates the PM’s facilitation of the Bush administration’s upcoming war (for war it is if nobody does anything to stop it). Indeed your policy makes Gordon Brown’s policy look like reckless political adventurism.

As in the case of Iraq (assuming there will be anybody left) the truth will out and it will become just as clear that we have been stampeded into another war, but on ‘pragmatic’ rather than ‘idealistic’ grounds this time. The same cast that herded us into the last war are behind this one and the same people that warned us about the folly of the last one are repeating their warnings with ElBaradei inviting us to read his lips again yesterday: “I have not received any information that there is a concrete active nuclear weapons program going on right now”.

That Iran is destabilising Iraq or Afghanistan is belied by the fact their governments praise Iran’s constructive influence and condemn American short-sightedness, insensitivity and brutality. The American’s latest hair-brained scheme makes a great story at home but is shortsighted—arming paramilitaries may work for a while but in the long run they will find an alternative use for their guns not so conducive to their government and armourers. Does the fact that the sovereign government of Iraq is vehemently objecting to these activities count for anything? We don’t know when this bright idea will unravel but of this much we can be certain: the Iranians will be responsible (or maybe the Syrians if it is more convenient, but who knows).

Do we know of any military losing to guerrillas that has not blamed outside agents for their woes? There has been much analysis of the American claims and the great majority of them fall apart when the tyres are kicked: some tie ups between Hezbollah and Shia paramilitaries are plausible but not much else. (While Hezbollah and Iran are allied they are of course distinct.)

Check out what the likes of Ron Paul or Pat Buchanan are saying or the articles turning up in the American Conservative:

  • Superpower Trip: Plagued by narcissism and impatience, U.S. foreign policy betrays all of the symptoms of Criminal Thinking
  • Sycophant Savior: General Petraeus wins a battle in Washington—if not in Baghdad [note that this is quite different from the mainstream/herd perspective and more congruent with Petraeus’s superior’s assessment (an ‘an ass-kissing little chickenshit’)];
  • Rudy Bombs in London: America’s mayor poses as the heir to Churchill and Thatcher

Or Fukuyama’s latest article:

Check out Ron Paul getting Bill Maher’s progressive audience cheering almost deliriously.

Look I have never been a Conservative and had serious problem with their 1980s programme but I don’t believe in one party states. Shouldn’t you be doing your job as an opposition beyond posturing weekly for TV cameras? Can you not see that the Conservative adherence to the government line on Iraq was a disaster for yourselves and the country (and the world). Sure, don’t play politics with national policy but the current dynamic is facilitating a drift into a catastrophic and very unpredictable war, which, believe me, is even less defensible than the Iraq invasion.

I have attached a message I sent to Max Hastings in response to his article in today’s Guardian, and a letter I sent to President Carter in response to an interview with him published in the Guardian last week. If anyone should find the time to read them you might start to understand why I think your policy is (on analysis) unprincipled, dreadfully misconceived and self-defeating (for all of us).

I will understand that you can’t engage in a debate here and I don’t want to consume your precious time restating your current policy which has been clearly stated. If there is any questions I can answer please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Chris Dornan

 

 

 

From: CAMERON, David [mailto:CAMEROND@parliament.uk]
Sent: 29 October 2007 10:48
To: chris@chrisdornan.com
Subject: An open letter to David Cameron and William Hague

Dear Mr Dornan,

Thank you for emailing David Cameron – I am replying on his behalf. I do apologise for the delay in my reply.

It is disappointing that the last Security Council Resolution on Iran was agreed in March, seven months ago. We need a step change in the international approach to Iran. If sanctions continue to move at this pace, Iranian leaders will conclude that they can safely ride out international opposition to their nuclear programme.

We believe that UN sanctions are the best way to put pressure on Iran to return to negotiations. We would like to see a new Security Council Resolution containing a ban on new arms sales to Iran, more effective steps against those involved in Iran’s nuclear programme, and action to target the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

However we also believe that the EU, as Iran’s largest trading partner, could do much more. European nations should adopt measures that the US has taken to deny certain Iranian banks access to the US financial system. They should also ban new European export credit guarantees to Iran, and begin targeted action to restrict European investment in Iranian oil and gas fields.

Thank you once again for taking the trouble to write.

Yours sincerely,

David Beal
Correspondence Secretary
David Cameron’s Office
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

30th October 2007

Dear Max Hastings,

I always try to catch your articles in The Guardian, as they are welcome thoughtful contrast to the sometimes reflexive liberal group-think. I was struck by your article today and have taken a key passage out for illustration.

A genuine global diplomatic coalition against Iran’s nuclear and foreign policies would be far more likely to impress Tehran, Sprecher and a colleague argue, than sanctions perceived as an overwhelmingly American play.

Few strategists dispute either that Iranian revolutionaries are playing a prominent role in frustrating the stabilisation of Iraq, or that Iran is doing its utmost to build nuclear weapons. […] Europeans will continue to support diplomatic and economic measures adopted by the UN, designed to exhibit the world’s dismay at Iran’s behaviour. There is chronic scepticism, however, about such initiatives. Next month the UN will debate further sanctions, but neither Russia nor China will support tough action.

President Vladimir Putin last week compared Bush’s behaviour towards Iran with that of a madman “running about with a razor blade in his hand”. Not many Europeans suppose that it is desirable for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Yet most think this almost inevitable, and preferable to the ghastly geopolitical consequences of adopting military action to stop it.

The seven years of the Bush presidency have witnessed a haemorrhage of American moral authority of a kind quite unknown in the 20th century.

The part in italics is key and I really am not quite sure what to make of it. I for one am determined not to sign up for any more group think: have we not learned anything from the Iraqi holocaust? With the internet we don’t have to—so much of it being out there, thank goodness (or thank Google), we can all be analysts now. My own analysis suggests that there is no such consensus and that the Iranians are almost certainly not destabilising Iraq and if they are supporting the attacks on the Americans they are doing it very discretely and with great restraint. (There is apparently reason to believe that Hezbollah has been assisting some Shia elements of the insurrection, but while Hezbollah is allied to the Iran they are distinct; over 50% of the American foreign captives were Saudi earlier in the year.) When have you ever heard of a military losing a guerrilla war ever do anything other than blame outside assistance? The Americans have done so much to fuel the insurgency that it is difficult to keep track, and both the Afghan and Iraqi governments praise Iran while criticising American short-sightedness. It doesn’t take very much poking at the American claims to see that they are highly suspect and many are suspicious and critical of Petraeus’s political ambitions and manoeuvrings (see, for example, Sycophant Savior in the American Conservative). Much the most clear-headed critiques of the Bush Whitehouse and the war on terror is coming from the likes of Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan, Scott Ritter and The American Conservative—i.e., from conservatives and Republicans.

With regards the nuclear programme it is very far from clear that the Iranians are even aiming at a weapons programme and they almost certainly don’t have a weapons programme now—or at least there is no evidence of one which even President Bush seemed to concede when he said in his infamous WW3 press conference that the capability to enrich uranium and knowledge of how to construct a bomb were a casus belli as far as he is concerned. However some experts suspect that the Iranian uranium deposits are so difficult to purify that, without assistance, enriching it beyond 20% might be out of their reach for the foreseeable future. Those with the weapons inspections expertise (e.g., ElBaradei, Blix, Ritter) are making some copper-bottomed statements that they see no imminent threat, and that there is plenty of time to resolve the issues with meaningful diplomacy (which we certainly haven’t seen). ElBaradei invited us to read his lips again yesterday: “I have not received any information that there is a concrete active nuclear weapons program going on right now”.

If you go back to what you say above, doesn’t the whole look more comprehensible if ‘we’ are being stampeded into another war by the Bush administration, having become so used to living under American protection that it is now inconceivable to do other than stay safely inside their narrative. The non-aligned countries are much more sympathetic to Iran and Putin has been saying consistently and vigorously what many people inside the US (liberals and conservatives) are increasingly saying, that the Bush regime lacks any concept of internal or external boundaries, the penny dropping even for the likes of Fukuyama.

Iran is no threat; the problem lies elsewhere; as long as we persist in misreading the situation it will deteriorate, and who knows maybe we will get W’s WW3 and have the satisfaction of watching him and his elected palls floating up out of their clothes to meet their maker while the rest of us fry.

The above is only the barest of outlines. I have written an open letter to President Carter where I try to explain why I think we are being herded into all these wars and to urge him and the rest of the Democrat establishment to step up to the plate because the situation is drifting. Shifts in perspective are never easy. I don’t know whether you are religious or not (I am Buddhist, but have a profound and deepening respect for other religions, including Christianity) but it might help as the letter tries to understand the perspective of the ‘other’ and look back at ourselves. Enjoy.

Thanks for the writing,

Chris

25th-28th October 2007

Dear President Carter,

I read your interview with Guardian America today with interest, your calmness, wisdom, intelligence and integrity all being clearly in evidence, but the discussion of Iran caused me some consternation. In the name of our common humanity I plead with you to read and consider the following as you are well placed to provide badly needed leadership here. I am not trying to convince you that a war with Iran would be wholly unwarranted and entirely counterproductive—that is clear to both of us—but that I believe there is something quite specific that is going wrong with our thinking and leading us into these wars, but we don’t have very much time to fix this problem. I think it was illustrated in your own answers in the above interview, though it is difficult to tell as such interviews are liable to be less precise than a written article or a prepared speech.

If I had to pick one quality above all others for the religious life it would be ‘know thyself’, but wouldn’t you say it is just as important for maintaining the integrity of a nation (or a family of nations). With the military machine possibly being primed to try and pulverise another Middle Eastern country, conceivably with tactical nuclear weapons, and the likely domestic consequences for the weakened constitution (the constitution as practised, not the document) are we hiding from ourselves? In the following I aim at nothing less than inverting our current perspective, to understand the ‘other’, and to understand how they may see us. This is not at all easy in the current situation so the following is much longer than I would have liked.

My Iranian Friend

I am corresponding with a friend in Tehran who emailed me recently, clearly agitated, to report the breaking news that President Bush was threatening Iran with World War Three. I replied to try and soothe him but his reply anticipated Scott Ritter’s latest truthdig article, On the Eve of Destruction. How could I honestly calm my friend: our current public discourse is dominated by the conviction (and there is little exaggeration here) that Iran is trying to get hold of a nuclear weapon to either dominate or destroy Israel and whether the best method of dealing with this situation is to destroy the Islamic Republic of Iran through a strategic bombing campaign or to contain it through the sort of siege warfare we saw with Iraq in the 1990s, and those advocating a military solution seem to be gaining more ground with each passing day. It is widely believed that current US government policy envisages the use of nuclear weapons to either destroy Iranian nuclear infrastructure or to force a resolution in the case of a contingency that posed a substantial threat to the military. Robert McNamara in a 2005 article for Foreign Policy, Apocalypse Soon, said ‘I would characterize current U.S. nuclear weapons policy as immoral, illegal, militarily unnecessary, and dreadfully dangerous’.

The Iranian Nuclear Programme

As you of course know, Iran was encouraged to develop civilian nuclear power in the 1970s by the USA and, like the USA, Iran is a signatory to the NPT. Contrary to common belief, it makes sense that the Iranians should desire to exploit their Uranium deposits to generate electricity and extend the life of their fossil fuel surplus. On current trends, according to some projections, they will become a net importer oil in a decade or so (see, e.g., CASMI fact sheet and Iran’s Energy Vulnerability). Whatever we may think about the coherence of Iran’s energy policy there is plenty of evidence that the Iranian’s perceive a need for nuclear energy (e.g., the reports of a proposed strategic bargain in 2003 included a peaceful nuclear programme; see Iran Proposal to US Offered Peace With Israel), and we should bear in mind that neither the USA nor the USSR needed the ‘space race’ and neither will the Americans and Chinese need the twenty-first century one. Many wars have been fought to acquire prestige or avoid humiliation. Iran has been repeatedly frustrated in developing its civil nuclear programme by other NPT nuclear-capable members breaking their contracts and violating their NPT obligations to assist Iran in developing its uranium enrichment programme for exclusively civilian purposes, forcing Iran onto the black market to acquire and take in house the requisite technology (see the CASMI fact sheet for details and references). Dr ElBaradei said recently ‘I cannot judge their intentions, but supposing that Iran does intend to acquire a nuclear bomb, it would need between another three and eight years to succeed’.

Dr ElBaradei was, for argument’s sake, quoting Western intelligence agencies own estimates of a possible three to eight years worst-case scenario, but many are sceptical that Iran would even be able, in the foreseeable future, unaided, to purify its own Uranium to the high levels of concentration required for nuclear weapons.

Iran will, however, have to solve a difficult technical problem before producing significant amounts of highly enriched uranium. Iranian uranium is reportedly contaminated with large amounts of molybdenum and other heavy metals. These impurities could condense and block pipes and valves in the gas centrifuges. In spite of this problem, the Iranians should be able to enrich uranium to the low enrichment needed for civil nuclear-power reactor fuel. But they would not be able to enrich above about 20 per cent in uranium-235. They would, therefore, not be able to produce uranium enriched enough for use in nuclear weapons. To do so they would first have to remove most of the molybdenum. They would need foreign technical help – from, for example, China or Russia – to solve this problem. (Dr Frank Barnaby, Iran’s Nuclear Activities, Oxford Research Group).

Dr ElBaradei is, of course, responsible for determining whether Iran’s intentions are peaceful or not, and is best placed to objectively judge their intentions. If the Islamic Republic of Iran should try to exploit the NPT to develop a nuclear weapons programme then this would of course be a serious matter, jeopardising as it would the framework of nuclear non-proliferation. Before coming to the remark that disturbed me so much in your interview, I would like to quote from a recently published article on Saeed Jalili by Simon Tisdall in The Guardian, quoting him from earlier in the year (before Mr Jalili was appointed as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator):

Dr Jalili said Iran had already gone much further, in terms of a previous two-year suspension of its enrichment research and additional inspections, than it was obliged to do under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

“Basically, what we are dealing with here is nuclear apartheid: some countries have rights and others are told they do not have similar rights … I also believe our insistence on our position helps maintain the spirit of the NPT.”

Dr Jalili described Mr Ahmadinejad as an “old friend of mine” whose principal offence, in the eyes of the US and Britain, was to speak truth to the world.

The president’s political philosophy began and ended with Islam, he said. He was leading a “big debate” about how to reinsert justice and spirituality into political life.

He defended Mr Ahmadinejad’s controversial threats against Israel. “He is saying that the state of Israel will fade away if the democratic process is observed [a reference to Iran’s official view that all Palestinians, including those living in exile, should be given a vote], and they will only have themselves to blame.”

There were no difficulties over Judaism inside Iran, he claimed, pointing to the presence of a Jewish MP in Iran’s parliament and a 25,000-strong Jewish community nationwide. The problem lay instead with Israel and with a “small group of people imposing their views” on the rest of the world. “It is time the international community did something about this.”

The peddling of conspiracy theories and other intolerant, fundamentalist thinking is nothing unusual in Iran.

I think it is worth studying these kinds of things for, while my friend in Tehran (and I have no reason to believe he is exceptional) makes a point of mastering the subtleties of our political discourse there is a marked and near-universal ignorance of Iranian political discourse and culture in the West, as can be seen from the above dismissive remarks of Simon Tisdall, a respected analyst. (I think your optimistic idealistic American temperament may find it easier to comprehend Saeed Jalili than our cynical British pragmatism.)

Dr Jalili has a point. To build trust in their negotiations with the EU3, the Iranians did compromise their rights to civilian enrichment of Uranium, only to find the attitude of the US government (which the Europeans acquiesced in) preventing any meaningful negotiations. (Scott Ritter details this in his book Target Iran: The truth about the US government’s plans for regime change). This is hardly surprising and is consistent with the policy of the US government of ‘not negotiating with evil’ (see The Secret History of the Impending War with Iran That the White House Doesn’t Want You to Know). Unlike Simon Tisdall, maybe because I am a religious person (I am a Buddhist), and because I have a growing and heartfelt appreciation of Islam (as well as Christianity), I feel somewhat encouraged by Dr Jalili’s and President Ahmadinejad’s commitment a foreign policy grounded in ethics. It is notable that in President Ahmadinejad’s speech to Columbia University there was a scriptural explanation of why it is important for humanity use science ethically and, as I am sure you are aware, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa declaring nuclear weapons to be un-Islamic. Not only is there no objective evidence that Iran’s intentions are other than peaceful (bearing in mind that they have submitted themselves to one of the most comprehensive weapons inspections regimes ever carried out by the IAEA), but one of the founding fathers of this theocratic state has declared them incompatible with their religion.

Yet you say in your interview that ‘I’m worried about the possibility of Iran continuing to develop nuclear weapons’ (my emphasis).

Is Dr Jalili right about a nuclear apartheid? How can Gordon Brown, another cosignatory of the NPT, standing next to Mr Olmert on the 23rd October, threaten Iran over its ‘ambitions for nuclear weapons’? Mr Olmert is himself in charge of a nuclear weapons stockpile that is beyond all international scrutiny; he is personally responsible for the disastrous 2006 invasion of Lebanon, and is currently working (with the USA) to destabilise and seemingly militarily attack the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the lead up to invasion of Iraq there was at least the pretence of a debate about the existence of a causus belli; after (apparently) over a million violent deaths and many millions more displaced and a seemingly endless civil-war-cum-insurrection in Iraq it seems that there is no longer any need to pay attention to facts—we now ‘make our own reality’. Dr Jalili’s plea for an end to apartheid in international relations may be scoffed at by us in the first world, free to impose our will on the rest of the world with our nuclear weapons, but a great deal of humanity sees things quite differently. Is world peace best served by a Nobel laureate underwriting this double standard? Is it even safe in the short term? Weapons-inspection experts like Scott Ritter, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei have concluded that there is no objective evidence pointing to a covert Iranian nuclear weapons programme, but increasingly Russia and China are inclined to this view too.

President Ahmadinejad

A critical factor in bringing about the catastrophic invasion of Iraq was the demonising of Saddam Hussein and his regime, in the sense of promoting the idea that all of the ills of the situation lay there, and if righteous force was brought to bear the problem would be fixed. We now see a repeat of this procedure, with leading liberal intellectuals calling him ‘a petty and cruel dictator’, while even a cursory knowledge of the political structure of the Islamic Republic of Iran will reveal that the President of Iran is in a weak position to dictate much. It is alarming to note just how poisoned the public discourse is at the moment. Your interviewer implicitly compared the president of Iran to Hitler in discussing the wisdom of inviting the him to address the students at Columbia University and you replied.

No, I think it was all right to give him the platform. Let him reveal his character and his attitude, which I think proved to be somewhat ludicrous. I don’t think it hurt America’s security to observe our professed commitment to free speech.

Many people will have drawn different conclusions (though how distinctive they will be depends upon how much weight ‘professed’ is given here). President Ahmadinejad is under pressure and is openly criticized at home and has been more than once subjected at home to close-quarters vocal student protests (in contrast to President Bush), and was democratically elected on a popular platform. In his visit to the United Nations he made vigorous efforts to try and open a dialogue with the American people; he may have (from our perspective) some strange ideas, some even repugnant, but he strikes me as committed to dialogue as we can see, for example, in his letter to the American people, his letter to the President Bush, his interview with Charlie Rose and his address to the students at Columbia University.

Most of the animosity towards him comes from his (to us) incendiary rhetoric about Israel, but you yourself have had more than a little experience of how irrational our own discourse on Israel can be (especially in the USA, and increasingly in Britain—even those that disagree with us would have to concede from the very intemperateness of the discussion that irrationality must be present somewhere), and this sensitivity is being exploited to drag us into another war in the Middle East. While many may criticize President Bush for his lack of curiosity, this criticism might also apply to some of his critics. Why does nobody ask why such a religious and clever man could wish to say such apparently ludicrous things? Contrary to the now received wisdom that President Ahmadinejad promised to ‘wipe Israel off the face of the map’ shortly after his election in 2005, as Saeed Jalili tells us, he said no such thing; see “Wiped off the Map” – The Rumor of the Century for an informed analysis of what he did say, a quote of Ayatollah Khomeini, and arguably not wholly different from your own Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid thesis, that a sustainable solution to the Palestinian problem must be just, and therefore cannot be based on force (assuming I have understood your thesis properly—please accept my apologies if I have not). There is much about Iranian rhetoric concerning Israel that we should try and change of course, but that can only happen through dialogue and engagement. Iranians and Americans seem to share a difficulty in accepting the reality of modern Israel but that American officials at the highest level continue to routinely misrepresent these remarks of President Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khomeini seriously calls into question their professed commitment to a diplomatic solution.

President Ahmadinejad’s inquiry into the Holocaust is incomprehensible to us, but we should bear in mind that, not being an American or European, he will see twentieth century history very differently from us, and that the inquiry was prompted by the Danish cartoon affair, where almost the whole of Christendom was preening itself on its commitment to free speech and sneering at Islamic sensitivity to our wanton trampling of their sensibilities. As I said, I am a religious person so I understand the value of the sacred and why it should be respected, but having grown up in Europe I also understand that this understanding is confined to a minority. Such behaviour remains inexplicable to the Islamic world in general, but very few responsible people in the West have condemned this irresponsible use of free speech. The Wikipedia articles on the Holocaust and the Danish cartoon affair make for a revealing comparison: the article on the Holocaust doesn’t even mention critiques of the received view, except for a single cross reference to an article on Holocaust denial, buried in the ‘See also’ section, and given over to the discussion of the abhorrent phenomenon, while the Danish cartoon article actually reproduces the offensive images, materially partaking in the outrage. To repeat it seems that there is an absolute prohibition on critiquing a received historical narrative that continues to impact us all (risking imprisonment in many jurisdictions for doing so) but images are to be reproduced that have nothing to contribute other than causing grave offence to one third of the world’s population. Was President’s Ahmadinejad’s inquiry really so inappropriate?

The treatment of the Jews (and others, but especially the Jews) in Europe in the 1930s fills me with horror and it can never be condemned enough—never again must good people allow our leaders to manipulate and frighten us into a hysteria that leads to the unleashing of a terrible violence on our own and others. (And I still don’t understand, as I couldn’t at the time, why the USA and the UK supported the CGDK in keeping control of the United Nations “seat” of Cambodia in the 1980s.) I found the report of what one participant of the Tehran conference had to say and the text of his address revealing, and it is worth considering whether it is really healthy that this kind of inquiry should be suppressed and driven underground rather than critiqued. (If I publish this letter I will remove these links.)

Is European and American guilt over the Holocaust, and maybe guilt over the suffering of the Palestinians, distorting our judgement in the Middle East, to the detriment of all parties? In an article in today’s Guardian David Trimble explains how the lessons of the Northern Irish peace process are being misunderstood. Thanks to the peace process neither community in Northern Ireland is now trying to impose on each other by force, but this could only come about through the penny dropping with far-sighted leaders in both communities, and the facilitators (the UK, Irish and US governments) patiently and impartially working to prepare for such a political reality. My question is this: to what extent is the above-mentioned residual guilt blinding us collectively to this basic insight in the Middle East peace process? It never occurred to me question the central distortions that this guilty taboo may be generating until I was confronted by President Ahmadinejad’s question and our astonishing response to it. (I see from a recent series of brave reports from Gaza suggests ‘pariah’ Hamas, besides having by far the best democratic credentials may at the moment be the most constructive of all the parties.)

Even President Ahmadinejad’s ludicrous remark about Iran not having any homosexuals looks somewhat less foolish once his words are attended to carefully (see Getting Lost In Translation: Ahmadinejad And The Media).

And, everyone should become familiar with Trita Parsi’s masterful scholarly investigation of the foreign policies of Israel and Iran, which despite all the ideological packaging (seemingly so necessary in this age of propaganda) is highly realistic. It makes the current debate over Iran in the West look positively unhinged.

Human Rights

Western public sentiment looks dangerously close to wearily acquiescing in a military campaign against Iran, just as it did against Iraq, because the government is seen as oppressive and therefore illegitimate. Yet Iran was starting to relax under President Khatami, but the Guardian Council ended the liberal experiment for the 2005 elections, and it is worth considering what part we played in this. According to the above-mentioned Leverett-Mann interview, after the attack of September 11th, 2001, the Iranians, like almost everyone else, were horrified at the attacks and were highly supportive in the campaign to prosecute Al Qaeda (being no friends of either Al Qaeda or the Taliban).

But the important thing is that the Iranians agreed to talk unconditionally, Mann says. “They specifically told me time and again that they were doing this because they understood the impact of this attack on the U.S., and they thought that if they helped us unconditionally, that would be the way to change the dynamic for the first time in twenty-five years.” (The Secret History of the Impending War with Iran)

However after the 2002 State of the Union address the Iranian negotiators were understandably horrified at being named as part of the Axis of Evil (my emphasis).

After that, the Iranian diplomats skipped the monthly meeting in Geneva. But they came again in March. And so did Mann. “They said they had put their necks out to talk to us and they were taking big risks with their careers and their families and their lives,” Mann says.

The secret negotiations with Iran continued, every month for another year. (The Secret History of the Impending War with Iran)

Indeed the secret negotiations did continue and there are reports of a remarkable proposal (mentioned above) passed through their Swiss ambassador, as I am sure you are aware. History tells us that it is difficult for nations to undergo social transformation while they are facing existential threats. On their eastern and western borders the Iranians have countries that have been invaded by this Bush administration, their state and civil society destroyed and placed under military occupations and they remain embroiled in endless civil wars. To their south they are menaced by a huge naval task force and moves to isolate them through the imposition of sanctions. Indeed Scott Ritter wrote in an article for Al Jazeera in mid 2005, The US War with Iran has Already Begun: “We now know that the war [with Iraq] had started much earlier. Likewise, history will show that the US-led war with Iran will not have begun once a similar formal statement is offered by the Bush administration, but, rather, had already been under way since June 2005, when the CIA began its programme of MEK-executed terror bombings in Iran.” Is there not a slight air of unreality when even a liberal (Lee Michael Katz in your Guardian America interview) have taken to likening the President of Iran to Hitler, fixating on disputed photographs from a hostage crisis 27 years ago to ‘get a visceral reaction’?

Is Iran being Irresponsible?

It has become a commonplace that Iran is both destabilising Iraq and Afghanistan and organizing or assisting the attacks on US military forces in these countries. If this were so then we would expect some objective evidence to support ‘what everybody knows’, but independent scrutiny of these claims has failed to yield anything. In the first place, both the Iraqi and Afghanistan governments continue to praise Iran’s constructive assistance and condemn US heavy-handedness and shortsightedness. Much has been made of the January attack in Karbala, yet as the Anchorage Daily News report, Death by Treachery, makes clear the local police and even local support workers at the base clearly knew about the attack, declined to warn the Americans, and quietly took themselves out of the way for the attack. This is not the signature of a foreign inspired ‘insurgency’ against the wishes of the local people. Gareth Porter has written an incisive article, Newspeak and the New War in Iran, analysing the way the military reports from Iraq are more than a touch Orwellian. It is also a commonplace that the armour piercing EFPs are indicative of Iranian state support to the resistance, yet Andrew Cockburn reports in the Los Angeles Times:

The truth is that EFPs are simple to make for anyone who knows how to do it. Far from a sophisticated assembly operation that might require state supervision, all that is required is one of those disks, some high-powered explosive (which is easy to procure in Iraq) and a container, such as a piece of pipe. I asked a Pentagon analyst specializing in such devices how much each one would cost to make. “Twenty bucks,” he answered after a brief calculation. “Thirty at most.”

Milan Rai has also looked at the history of EFPs and found an origin much closer to home. History tells us that conventional militaries fighting losing battles to guerrillas tend to blame their woes on external interference. There is more than enough evidence that the military occupation has created the conditions for the insurrection through its incompetence and brutality (including the contractors, answerable as they were to no law). It should be noted that the Iraqi government opposes the American arming of paramilitaries in Anbar on the (understandable) basis that the paramilitaries may at a future stage find an alternative use for their weapons, not so conducive to their arms suppliers and their government, and Robert Fisk has reported recently that Iraq is so awash with materiel that it is starting to flow into and destabilize Lebanon (much of it from the 190,000 rifles and pistols which the US military can’t account for).

Islamo-Fascism

Faced with a lack of any care for either binding treaties, facts or for how our actions are effecting the people of the region it is hardly surprising that the Iranians are taking such a principled position over their rights to pursue a civilian nuclear programme under the NPT. History shows that nothing is ever gained by trying to accommodate this kind of full-spectrum violence.

It has become fashionable to discuss Islamo-fascism in the very circles that are calling for military action against Iran, and the envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, in striking echo of his 1999 Chicago speech (which laid down the political blueprint for the invasion of Iraq) has discussed this in a recent speech in New York, where he said that ‘[t]his ideology now has a state, Iran, that is prepared to back and finance terror in the pursuit of destabilising countries whose people wish to have peace.’ However, given the well known controversial religious views of those pushing this idea (giving rise to concern that some may be indifferent to the prospect of, or could even by trying to engineer, a conflagration in the Middle East that could consume the world’s civilizations in an orgy of destruction, and so herald the end times, while, incredibly, seemingly entirely unconcerned about their ever being held to account for such incomprehensible selfishness and cruelty), and the very real concerns in some progressive and conservative circles about the future of American open society (Naomi Wolf’s and Al Gore’s speeches posted at the American Freedom Campaign made my hair stand on end), one is entitled to wonder whether those that find the idea of Islamo-fascism so fascinating and relevant might not be victims of psychological projection.

Projection: Projection is one of the defense mechanisms identified by Freud and still acknowledged today. According to Freud, projection is when someone is threatened by or afraid of their own impulses so they [unknowingly] attribute these impulses to someone else. For example, a person in psychoanalysis may insist to the therapist that he knows the therapist wants to rape some women, when in fact the client has these awful feelings to rape the woman.

The Key Point

It is remarkable the way that the war party has entirely succeeded in setting the terms of the debate for everyone. It started by establishing that Iraq was a corrupt and illegitimate state ruled by a murderous dictator, destabilising the region and bent on acquiring nuclear weapons so that they can be used against us or our allies, either directly or through non-state proxies. For whatever reason, too many people allowed this exploitation of ignorance, fear and hate to poison the discourse and then tried to argue either pragmatically that war was not a practical solution, or idealistically that it is unethical to invade other countries that aren’t posing an imminent threat.

To the exasperation of many observers the very same people have succeeded in running precisely the same programme but substituting Iran for Iraq, with some small presentational adjustments, such as a ‘realistic’ packaging (‘military action or World War Three, which is it to be’) in place of the ideological gloss (‘freedom and democracy for the Middle East’).

I was struck in a recent radio discussion between Scott Horton and Gareth Porter (right at the end) by their conviction that some senior members of the current administration know how catastrophic a military intervention will be but have allowed themselves to be strategically outflanked by the war party, but I am not so sure. By allowing the national and international debate to become so progressively poisoned by ignorance, fear and hate it seems that we have all facilitated a climate in which diplomacy becomes all but impossible. By failing to challenge the ignorance/fear/hate agenda, by allowing the Mesopotamian holocaust to proceed without any meaningful opposition, Frank Rich in a New York Times suggested recently that we may be repeating the mistakes of the ‘good Germans’ in the 1930s. However, Frank Rich himself, one of the sharpest critics (at least after the fact) of the way public opinion was prepared for the Iraq war, has remained deadly silent about the how the same campaign is being used to prepare us for this next war, and one could say that this is a fair reflection of the nation’s leading liberal news paper, as it is of the Democratic general party (see Who Wants to Bomb Iran? Dems, not the GOP, says Seymour Hersh).

Is Dr Jalili’s comments (quoted at the start my letter) about the importance of integrity and justice, and the seeming monopoly of the concerns of a single party, really so deranged and unreal (as most commentators seem to think)?

I would like to suggest two examples that we could learn from: the calmness and firmness of the Iranians themselves in their dealings with us (however incomprehensible their thought processes may sometimes be to us, especially as it manifests in their domestic political rhetoric). The second example is a very American one (although a Republican) in the person of Scott Ritter. His courage, intelligence, loyalty, energy, patriotism and integrity are individually unusual enough, but united, rare indeed. With a prescience that borders on the prophetic, he saw the Iraqi and the now unfolding Iranian catastrophes years ahead, and in his latest book Waging Peace he is anticipating an important development in joining progressives and conservatives to focus on the current insane approach to foreign policy while raising awareness of the constitution and the UN charter (and I see Francis Fukuyama has finally caught up in America’s self-defeating hegemony).

Scott Ritter is also an excellent example, because, unlike people like me, he is no mushy-headed liberal peacenik, but a veteran of the Marine Corps with a martial approach to life, and a conservative at heart. Military people have probably done much more than anyone else so far to avert war with Iran, but they can hardly be relied upon to hold the line for very much longer. In Ritter’s Target Iran, the chapter titled The Great Appeasers is devoted to the Europeans (especially the French and British, of course), but maybe it is just as appropriate for those of us who know something is very wrong but are allowing the situation to drift.

There are other inspiring examples that we can learn from, like the Jewish community, although living disproportionately closer to the September 11th 2001 outrage were collectively much, much more sceptical than the general population of the wisdom of invading Iraq, or Ron Paul’s inspiring, principled, clear-headed and brave position on the WTC attacks (underlined by his bipartisan appeal), or your own contribution to the American debate of the Palestinian tragedy; there are many. As Queen Rania of Jordon invites us to do, we can exploit the reverse domino effect, light the lamp of wisdom and compassion and dispel the darkness that is threatening to engulf us.

May God help us all.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Dornan