Monday, December 5, 2011

Iran, Orwell & The Enigma Of Greenwald

I generally never click over to read Glen Greenwald unless I spot a particularly interesting title or teaser, such as the one in Memorandum today listing a Glen Greenwald article, "George Orwell On The Evil Iranian Menace."  Greenwald relying on Orwell struck me as odd, as Orwell was a pretty severe critic of the type of politics Greenwald embraces.

Here was the quote that Greenwald uses from Orwell's 1945 Notes on Nationalism as the basis for his column.

All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side. . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

(emphasis supplied by Greenwald).

Greenwald neglects to inform us that Orwell gave in his essay a unique definition of nationalism, conflating it with xenophoia to define "nationalism" as "identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests." And according to Greenwald, all of those in the U.S. who see Iran as a great evil meet Orwell's definition of "nationalists" as, according to Greenwald, we are actually more "evil" in our actions then is Iran.

To make his point, Greenwald goes through a long list of American and Israeli actions that he considers criminal, ranging from waterboarding (Torture!!!!!!) and military detentions to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and including that:

. . . some combination of the U.S. and Israel has bombarded Iran with multiple acts of war over the last year, including explosions on Iranian soil, the murder of numerous Iranian nuclear scientists (in which even one of their wives was shot), and sophisticated cyberattacks.

Greenwald sees no possible justification for such acts, concluding with this utterly unreal statement:

During this same time period, Iran has not invaded, occupied or air attacked anyone. Iran, to be sure, is domestically oppressive, but no more so — and in many cases less — than the multiple regimes funded, armed and otherwise propped up by the U.S. during this period. Those are all just facts.

Facts?  That is so disingenous, so blatantly misleading in its omissions as to be risible.   Here is a short list I compiled some time ago of Iran's bloodthirsty, dangerous and aggressive acts:

Iran is the single most destabilizing influence in the world today. Sec of Defense Robert Gates had it right when he said not too long ago

Everywhere you turn, it is the policy of Iran to foment instability and chaos, no matter the strategic value or cost in the blood of innocents - Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. . . . There can be little doubt that their destabilizing foreign policies are a threat to the interests of the United States, to the interests of every country in the Middle East, and to the interests of all countries within the range of the ballistic missiles Iran is developing.

And, as Stuart Levy, Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence recently testified before Congress, Iran is the "the central banker of terrorism." It "uses its global financial ties and its state-owned banks to pursue its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and to fund terrorism."

To tick off the list of Iran’s threats:

- Iran is clearly doing all it can to prevent peace between Palestinians and Israel. And in rearming Hamas, it is doing so with substantially stronger rockets that can reach further into Israel, virtually insuring that Israel will have to take extreme measures to stop the daily attacks.

- Iran’s meddling in Lebanon has created a situation where both the Shia population and the country as a whole are dominated by Hezbollah, an army trained, armed and directed by Iran. Indeed, Hezbollah is now demanding veto power over acts of the Lebanese government. In the wake of the 2006 war with Israel, Iran is arming Hezbollah with much stronger rockets that can reach vitrutally all of Israel, thus insuring that the next war with Hezbollah will also be far more bloody for all of Lebanon.

- Iran has occupied several islands belonging to the UAE. Iran has supported attempted coups in Bahrain and, recently, Azerbaijan. Iran occupied a significant part of Iraqi territory immediately after Saddam's fall – some 1800 square-kilometers of the Zaynalkosh salient - and is making an effort to extend its dominance over the waterway on which sits Iraq's only major port.

- Iran is arming and training the Sudan's military - those would be the folks involved in a campaign of genocide against the non-Muslims in Southern Sudan and Darfur.

- Iran is now the single greatest threat to stability in Iraq. Iran is attempting to "Lebanize" Iraq, using "special groups" culled from Sadr’s Mahdi Army to create a Hezbollah type of militia that will keep Iraq’s central government weak and extend Iranian influence over Iraq’s Shia majority. Indeed, Iran’s campaign to create a satellite state of Iraq was clear from the very start of the U.S. invasion in March, 2003. Their "special groups" are responsible for the deaths of nearly 200 American soldiers and the wounding and maiming of hundreds of others.

- Iran’s drive towards a nuclear weapon is significantly destabilizing the Middle East and has already initiated what promises to be a nightmare of nuclear proliferation. "Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, the UAE, Yemen, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt have indicated an interest in developing nuclear programs, with Israeli officials saying that if these countries did not want the programs now for nuclear capabilities, they wanted the technology in place to keep "other options open" if Iran developed a bomb." According to a recent study initiated by Senator Lugar, "the future Middle East landscape may include a number of nuclear-armed or nuclear weapons-capable states vying for influence in a notoriously unstable region."

- And then of course is the threat that a nuclear armed Iran intrinsically poses. According to Bernard Lewis, the West’s premier Orientalist, Iran's theocracy operates outside the constraints of Western logic. The concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MADD) that worked against the Soviet Union and with other nuclear armed nations is not assured of working with a theocracy whose messianic rulers welcome the carnage that will presage the coming of the hidden Imam. And to add to that is the threat that Iran could well provide nuclear materials to terrorist groups in order to conduct attacks, such as dirty bombs, that could not necessarily be traced back to Iran. Such a scenario would be completely in keeping with the historical activities of Iran's theocracy.

And indeed, even the paltry number of "facts" that Greenwald posits are false. Greenwald's suggestion that Iran is staying within its borders is not merely objectively false, but it ignores the whole raison d'etre of Iran's theocracy - as even the smallest amount of research would show:

Iran's theocracy exists to spread its Khomeinist revolution at all costs throughout the Middle East and the world. This is no secret. Iran’s leaders since Khomeini have regularly and explicitly stated as such. For example, this from the Ayatollah Khomeini, quoted in an 11th-grade Iranian schoolbook:

I am decisively announcing to the whole world that if the world-devourers [i.e., the infidel powers of the U.S. and the West] wish to stand against our religion, we will stand against their whole world and will not cease until the annihilation of all them. Either we all become free, or we will go to the greater freedom which is martyrdom. Either we shake one another's hands in joy at the victory of Islam in the world, or all of us will turn to eternal life and martyrdom. In both cases, victory and success are ours.

Read the entire article. And there has been no weakening of this expansionist motivation in the years since. Indeed, the sub-cult of Shia’ism dominant in Iran’s rulers today, Mahdism, is equally as expansionist while actually being more messianic and dangerous than the philosophy articulated by Khomeini. It is a philosophy that welcomes carnage and chaos to hasten the coming of the Mahdi. This from Ahmedinejad, himself a Mahdist, in a February address to Iran’sAssembly of Experts:

Building a model society and introducing the Islamic Revolution are our nation's missions… The Islamic Revolution and the Islamic Republic of Iran are both great divine gifts, not only awarded to the Iranian nation, but to the entire mankind. . . . "Our nation's second important mission [after insuring a Khomeinist utopia in Iran] is introducing the Islamic Revolution to the entire mankind. . . .

Equally risible is Greenwald's claim that Iran's domestic oppression is not particularly harsh or unique.  Did this joker miss the brutal repression of the Green Revolution.  Does he not understand that, even before that repression, the theocracy made extensive use of terrorism to keep its own population in line?  As two human right’s activists wrote in PJM some time ago:

. . . [S]ince 1979 the Mullahs of Iran have killed upwards of one million Iranians, not to mention the nearly one million sacrificed to the 8-year-long Iran/Iraq war. And what the Iranian people have withstood in terms of outrageous human rights violations is shocking; public hangings, stoning, flogging, cutting off limbs, tongues and plucking out eyeballs are an everyday occurrence across Iran. All are meant to strike fear of the ruling Mullahs into people’s hearts.

Read the entire article.  It is hard for me to think of a more evil regime than Iran's theocracy, nor one more threatening to literally the entire world should they gain a nuclear arsenal.

So let's address the enigma that is Greenwald.  He apparently is intelligent enough to write coherent essays.  His professional life involves political commentary and analysis, so we can reasonably assume that he is not so lacking in intelligence that he is incapable of doing rudimentary research.  So we can only conclude that Greenwald is being deliberately intellectually dishonest in the above essay in order to attack his own country.

Indeed, had Greenwald read Orwell's 1945 Notes on Nationalism with a closer eye, he might have seen his own reflection in the form of "negative nationalism."  According to Orwell,  negative nationalists are those who apply xenephobic nationalism in reverse, to see only the worst in their own country in comparison to all others.  Indeed, it would seem that is a disease that fully infects virtually all of our modern left.  That explains the enigma of how Greenwald can pen such a disgusting piece of intellectual dishonesty, but it still doesn't explain the enigma of how and why he gets paid for it.

Update:  Welcome Larwyn's Linx readers

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