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Iran: Threat or Menace? Part 3: Why Iran-bashing is obligatory

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei casts the first vote in Iran’s elections

Today is presidential election day in Iran. 

So here is the pull quote for today’s article:

In Going to Tehran, the Leveretts show that there was not a shred of evidence of significant fraud in the 2009 Iranian elections – as those crying fraud implicitly admitted in their failure to even try to provide the evidence that would have been easily available had widespread fraud actually occurred.

 I wish the USA’s “black-box computer-fabricated” presidential elections were as honest as the Iranian ones, which use hand-counted paper ballots.


Iran: Threat or Menace? Part 3: Why Iran-bashing is obligatory 

(Links to part 1 and part 2 and listen to my interview with Flynt Leverett at )

If you want to publish an English-language article, book, or research paper about Iran, don’t even think about noticing any of the positive accomplishments of the 1979 Islamic revolution. If you do, you may never work in this town again.

Even the good books in English about Iran – with very few exceptions – have a strong anti-Islamic-revolution bias.

Going to Tehran by Flynt and Hillary Leverett

The most notable exception is Going to Tehran by Flynt and Hillary Leverett. The Leverett’s book corrects most of the major misconceptions about Iran in great detail and with convincing documentation.

The good news is that the Leveretts’ book was reviewed by the New York Times. The predictable bad news is that the Times attacked it as a one-sided polemic pushing the views of the Iranian government.

Why would Flynt and Hillary Leverett, senior members of the US foreign policy establishment, be putting out propaganda for the Iranian government? Laura Secor, author of the Times hit piece, cannot even begin to explain.

Flynt and Hillary Leverett deviate from the standard US propaganda line for one reason and one reason only: That propaganda line is false, and its continued propagation is dangerous.

The Leveretts understand full well that just about everybody who is allowed to publish about Iran in the West – including the author of the New York Times review – is obliged to parrot the anti-Islamic-revolution line. So-called “experts” are obliged to pretend that Iranians “chafe under the regime of the clerics,” even though most Iranians obviously support the legacy of their revolution. (Just as most Americans support the legacy of the American revolution – except that the support is stronger in Iran because the revolution was more recent, and the bad guys much worse.)

Why do American “Iran experts” consistently get it wrong? As the Leveretts explain, most Americans who study and write about Iran get most of their information from two kinds of Iranians:

1) Wealthy exiles who fled the Revolution, which they despise, and are now living comfortably in Los Angeles – in many cases trying to extort money from the US taxpayer for their absurd anti-Islamic-Revolution schemes. These folks are the equivalent of the Cuban “gusanos” who spent the past fifty years trying to convince us that everyone in Cuba hates the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro. They are con-artists lining up in hopes of becoming the Iranian Chalabi.

2) Wealthy English-speaking secularist-types from North Tehran, who represent a minuscule fraction of Iran’s population. These folks tried to launch the CIA-Soros sponsored “green revolution” of 2009 by making ludicrously false charges of election fraud after that year’s elections. (In Going to Tehran, the Leveretts show that there was not a shred of evidence of significant fraud in the 2009 Iranian elections – as those crying fraud implicitly admitted in their failure to even try to provide the evidence that would have been easily available had widespread fraud actually occurred.)

The mainstream “experts” get most of their information from the small minority of Iranians opposed to the revolution. Like Chalabi, the Iranian gusanos tell the Americans what they want to hear. The Americans dutifully echo it. The result is a bubble of false information. If you live inside the bubble, eating, breathing, and excreting lies, you can be gainfully employed as an “Iran-expert” professor or adviser  think-tanker or diplomat. If you live outside the bubble – or attempt to pop it, as the Leveretts have – you will be attacked and marginalized and your career will be damaged.

In this climate, it’s easy to see why even the good books about Iran carry an anti-Revolution bias.

The Twilight War: The Secret History of America’s Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran by David Crist

One such good book, well worth reading, is David Crist’s The Twilight War: The Secret History of America’s Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran. Crist is an official US military historian – the book jacket calls him “a historian for the US government and adviser to top political and military officials” – so one expects a partial, one-sided view, and in that expectation one is not disappointed. But for a one-sided military history from a pro-US-imperialist perspective, Crist’s book is exceptionally valuable.

It is also perversely entertaining. The story of the US’s clumsy attempts to crush Iran’s Islamic Revolution is reminiscent of Elmer Fudd’s attempts to hunt down and shoot Bugs Bunny. Every time Elmer, dressed as Uncle Sam, sends a shotgun blast into a rabbit hole, that pesky turban-wearing Iwanian wabbit pops up behind him, gives him a quick kick in the ass, and says “nyah, what’s up, doc?” Latest episode: In a fit of forgetfulness, Elmer “Uncle Sam” Fudd takes out Iran’s two biggest antagonists – the Taliban and Saddam – and then grumbles when the pesky Iwanian wabbit pops up from his hole looking healthier than ever.

So what is the US-Iran conflict really about? Crist sums it up: “Hard liners in Iran reject the status quo of American supremacy in the region” (p. 5). What Crist doesn’t add, but should, is that the vast majority of the people of the region, whether Arab, Persian, or Turk, whether Sunni, Shi’a, or Christian, also reject that status quo. And like the Iranian leadership, that majority wants to put an end to the genocidal/apartheid Jewish-supremacy state in what everyone in the region refers to as Occupied Palestine. But unlike the Iranian revolutionaries and their heirs, few others in the region have been able to mount a successful challenge to American and Zionist power.

Crist’s all-too-accurate observation – that the real issue is the universally-hated status quo of US-Zionist hegemony in the region – puts a new spin on George W. Bush’s famous line “you’re either with us or against us.” In a way, Bush was right. There are two kinds of people in the Middle East: Scumbags who sell out their people by cooperating with American-Zionist hegemony in the region, and decent people who fight that hegemony. Iran’s government, unlike most Middle Eastern governments, has been in the hands of decent people since 1979.

Crist’s book offers lively, detailed descriptions of various American soldiers, sailors and spies who have been fighting the American “twilight war” against Iran during the past four decades. Few of these people seem to have noticed that they are fighting on the side of the scumbags.

As an official military historian, Crist naturally gives us the “official story” of disputed events. He opines that Ayatollah Khomeini’s son died of a natural heart attack, not one induced by the Shah’s agents and their CIA masters. He blames the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983 on Hizbullah and Iran, with nary a mention of possible Israeli complicity and/or orchestration. He blames Iranian surrogates for blowing up the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996. (I am not saying he is necessarily wrong about any of these events, but am just pointing out that they are disputed.) And of course, he accepts the ludicrous official version of 9/11, according to which guys who couldn’t fly Cessnas supposedly controlled-demolitioned three skyscrapers with two jetliners, then flew a third jetliner all over the eastern half of the US unnoticed by any air defenses for almost 90 minutes after “hijackings” had been reported, finishing with a physically-impossible stunt-flight into the side of the Pentagon furthest from the top brass.

Despite his dedication to official story-lines, Crist visibly flinches when recounting the official version of the US shoot-down of Iran Air 655 in 1988. After the USS Vincennes ostensibly disobeyed orders and entered Iranian waters, Captain Rogers and Lt. Commander Scott Lustig shot down Iran Air 655, killing the 290 passengers. The US lied and claimed the Vincennes had been in international waters the whole time – a lie exposed by a Newsweek article in 1992. After the US military’s slaughter of 290 Iranian civilians, improbably explained as a “fog of war” snafu, Crist reports that:

“The US military handed out medals. Captain Rogers received a Legion of Merit medal, a high-level award usually given to a commander following a successful command, not to one who could be viewed as having been responsible for the death of 290 innocents. Lustig received a comparable medal and went on to get promoted” (p. 369).

Crist notes that most Iranians believe the shootdown of Iran Air 655 was an act of terrorism designed to force Iran to end its war with Iraq, which had been heavily armed by the US, encouraged to invade Iran, and massively supported, especially during the last years of the war. That is why Rogers and Lustig were lavished with honors and promotions for slaughtering 290 innocents – because they had been following orders when they conducted the terrorist attack on a civilian airliner. Crist does not offer any good reasons to disagree with the Iranian view.

As he follows the US-Iran “twilight war” into its present phase, Crist seems to grasp the dynamic driving present American policy: A hard-line neocon-Zionist element is trying to carry out Netanyahu’s “clean break” by destroying the Middle East and rebuilding it in a form more amenable to Israeli geopolitical aspirations; while a realist faction pushes back against the 9/11-triggered neocon war on the region, and tries to make US interests, rather than Israeli ones, the cornerstone of policy. Crist presents both perspectives, but seems to favor the realists; at the same time, his failure to make a clear distinction between the two factions, and to clearly grasp and state that the neocon policy is Israel-driven, could mislead naive readers.

Crist does tellingly point out that Wolfowitz’s ultra-Zionist, judeocentric worldview led to at least one major strategic blunder: When the US military debated rehabilitating some of the Ba’ath party apparatus to provide security for Iraq in the wake of the 2003 invasion, Wolfwowitz nixed the proposal: “They’re Nazis!” Wolfwowitz apparently sees the world through the lens of the holocaust; everything he does is geared toward preventing the demise of the Jewish state in Occupied Palestine, which, in his view, would be the equivalent of second holocaust. (How a person with such a fanatical loyalty to a foreign state became a US policy-maker is a very interesting question.)

The neocon “clean break” plan aimed at regime change not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Iran. The current war on Syria, for the neocons, is a step towards their long-awaited invasion of Iran: Syria and Iran are the last two independent states in the region; all the others have been subjugated as US-Israeli vassals.

Will Crist will have to update his book to include a future US war on Iran? Crist ends his book ominously: “Soon it may no longer be twilight; the light is dimming, and night may well be approaching at long last” (572). If Netanyahu succeeds in tricking the US into attacking Iran, who would the outcome favor? Given the war games that give Iran the advantage in any such conflict, it seems likely that the pesky Iwanian wabbit will continue to dodge Elmer Fudd’s bullets for the foreseeable future.

In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs: A Memoir of Iran  and The Struggle for Iran by Christopher de Bellaigue

Another author with an anti-Revolution bias who is still worth reading is Christopher de Bellaigue, the former Tehran correspondent for The Economist. De Ballaigue is married to a well-off, liberal, secular architect from North Tehran, so it is unsurprising that his views are in line with those of the Iranian gusano exiles and their domestic supporters.

His 2004 book In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs is at its best when it is describing sardonic scenes, some of them borderline-surreal, from the author’s experience in Iran. De Bellaigue is an accomplished descriptive writer with an eye for the absurd, who is not above occasionally making fun of himself. Unfortunately, when he makes fun of people, it usually isn’t himself. Instead, he mostly looks down on Iranians who strike him as déclassé. These are the ordinary, religious, working-class Iranians who make up the backbone of the conservative forces that he despises. For de Bellaigue, it seems that these people, and their religion, are physically grotesque, and often smell bad: The sanctuary at Qom is “a tight room with an overwhelming gold-plated sarcophagus and a pungent smell from the feet” where pilgrims indulge in a “lugubrious revel” (p. 89). His religious and conservative informant, Mr. Zarif, has “certainly widdled according to the prophet’s example, squatting so the piss doesn’t splash on his trousers” (p.115) and has hairs growing out of his nose.

Though he viscerally identifies with the upper-class secularist element of Iranian society, de Bellaigue does manage to tell some important truths that reflect well on the Islamic revolution. The chapter “Gas” (p.181-205) covers some of the West’s war crimes during the Iran-Iraq war, when it encouraged Saddam’s invasion of Iran, then sold chemical weapons to the Iraqis, who used it repeatedly and to horrific effect, without any protest from the international community. De Bellaigue offers moving narratives from Iranian veterans of that war – narratives that need to be heard by the West, which is generally clueless about how the lingering effects of the Iraqi/Western war on the Islamic Revolution shaped Iranian political consciousness.

De Bellaigue’s The Struggle for Iran is not nearly as interesting as In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs. It rather drily voices an Iranian political perspective somewhere between the reformism of Khatami and the arguably treasonous anti-Islamic-Revolution position of the LA gusanos. De Bellaigue seems blind to the reasons why most Iranians, and most Middle Easterners, are anti-Zionist, anti-imperialist, and pro-Islamist. But – unlike the neocons and the wannabe-Chalabi gusanos in LA – at least De Bellaigue recognizes the reality that the Islamic Revolution is here to stay:

In this poisonous atmosphere, it is hard to imagine that the reformers can persuade the conservatives to give up power voluntarily. A popular explosion remains a distant prospect; most Iranians do not want another revolution, and the police and revolutionary guards are disciplined and loyal. Unless the reformers can muster allies in the conservative establishment, or find new ways to bring public pressure on it, Iran seems fated to an unyielding form of Islamic rule.

The sooner the West comes to terms with the fact that the Islamic Revolution isn’t going away – and recognizes the justice of the Islamic Republic’s demands for an end to Zionism and imperialism – the better the prospects for peace in the Middle East, and the world.

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