I watched another news program today—this one on MSNBC—with Dylan Ratigan shouting into the camera that if Iran shuts down the Strait of Hormuz through which 40 per cent of the world’s oil flows, it is an act of war.
However, like most everything we watch on news programs, history does not begin with the latest reaction of someone who feels aggrieved. Much like a football referee seeing only the last fist flying, blind to the first punch, the retaliating party is the one who gets the penalty.
With many other Americans, I’ve been watching the buildup to another war in the Middle East—this one with Iran. And it scares me to death. The President lays more and more sanctions on Iran because of fears of its nuclear program—fears that it might by, in Condee Rice’s terminology, “a mushroom cloud.” Forgive me for comparing the language of today with what we heard just before George W. Bush gave the order to invade Iraq.
But just like the run-up to the Iraq War, we are being pushed by pro-Israeli supporters here in America into doing Israel’s dirty work. Then, when the final butcher’s bill is paid—by American blood and American money—the government of Israel sits back and denies having anything to do with the war. And American politicians will allow them to sell this denial.
Just as Saddam Hussein was a danger only to his own population, Iran has no means or reason to start a war against anyone in the Middle East, especially Israel. As mouthy as Ahmedinejad is, Iran has no offensive capability. If it is developing a nuclear warhead, and even the IAEA is not certain about it, the mullahs who run Iran are not crazy enough to use such a weapon without causing their entire nation—including themselves–to be destroyed by Israel’s 200 plus nuclear warheads.
Iran has a small navy, although a large number of soldiers, no air force to speak of, and, I repeat here, no offensive capability. What worries Israel is the fear that Iran will prevent Israel from achieving hegemony over the entire Arab World. Israel fears Iran’s allies, such as Hizbollah in Lebanon, and Syria, and now Shiite Iraq, all of them preventing Israel from controlling any of those neighbors.
Israel also fears a slowdown of Jewish immigrants to Israel and tourists to Israel, all reacting to the drumbeat of fear begun by Israel itself.
What worries me is that Barack Obama is so afraid of the Israeli Lobby that he will do virtually anything to secure the Jewish vote this year. Every time he is accused of being soft on Iran, he increases his anti-Iran actions another notch. It would be nice to know that he fears the American people, who are sick and tired of paying for Middle East wars, more than he does the Israeli Lobby. But the Lobby knows what the Republican Congress has learned just a couple of years ago–pressure works on our President.
Like many people I know, I pray for some political courage on Barack Obama’s part, primarily to keep us out of a war, but even more, keeping us out of the grasp of the crazies who run the Republican Party.
JAMES ABOUREZK is a former U.S. Senator who practices law in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He is the author of Advise and Dissent, a memoir of his life in South Dakota and in the U.S. Senate. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.