William Pfaff is the author of The Irony of Manifest Destiny, published in June 2010 by Walker and Company (New York) -- his tenth and culminating work on international politics and the American destiny. He describes the neglected sources and unforeseen consequences of the tragedy towards which the nation's current effort to remake the world to fit America's measure is leading. His previous books and his articles in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and his syndicated newspaper column, featured for a quarter century in the globally read International Herald Tribune, have made him one of America's most respected and internationally influential interpreters of world affairs.   [Read more...]
Columns : All for War
on 2013/2/27 18:00:00 (4971 reads)

Paris, February 27, 2013 – A Gallup poll issued February 21 says that 99% of the American public now has become convinced that Iran’s civilian nuclear program will threaten “the vital interests of the United States in the next ten years.” Eighty-three percent say this will be “a critical threat.” Why?

Because Iran in the next decade will rain down nuclear missiles on American cities from coast to coast? Or sacrifice its own survival by making a suicide attack on Israel, which possesses what may be the fourth largest nuclear arsenal in the world?

Whatever the expectation, this fear of Iran in America is apparently now greater than the level of American fear of the Soviet Union – which actually could have devastated the U.S. with a nuclear attack – as reported by Gallup during the most dangerous of the Cold War years.

Never mind that this is a totally irrational fear. According to the combined conclusions of American intelligence agencies, plus the consensus of international intelligence assessments, Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. It has a civilian program. The conversion of this civilian program to military purposes would be a lengthy, internationally evident process – and even then, would at best furnish Iran only with a retaliatory threat, a deterrent, useless for aggression.

Iran will be our next war, if American neo-conservatives, certain advisors to the Obama government in Washington, and what would seem the all but total membership of the U.S. Congress, led by Benjamin Netanyahu and his new government in Israel, have their way in the months to come. All acting with the enthusiastic support -- or so it seems -- of the American public, which one might think has had enough of war, after nearly seventy years of it (including the Korean War), with little interruption, losing all of its wars, and gaining nothing.

Take the quasi-war that has gone on against Cuba since 1959. Raul Castro has just announced that he will retire at the end of the five-year presidential term to which he has just been elected. His invalid brother, Fidel, seems unlikely to survive Raul, and Raul has announced who should succeed him if he does not complete his term. The liberalization and partial democratization of Cuba begun under Raul is expected to continue, whoever is president.

The great half-century struggle between the United States of America [pop. 315 mil.] and the Republic of Cuba [pop. 11.5 mil.], a struggle once hysterically feared as likely to provoke a nuclear war that would blow away both the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (and Cuba with them) is over, or soon will be over -- Cuba the winner on points as a result of sitting there and taking the worst the U.S. could do to it through decades of embargos and sanctions.

What was it all about, and what has it accomplished?

In 1952 a young lawyer, Fidel Castro, brought suit in Cuba to overthrow the U.S. -supported dictator, Fulgencio Batista, for cause of corruption and tyranny. The suit was disallowed and Castro arrested. He said, “History will absolve me.”

In 1955 Batista released political prisoners. The Jesuits who had educated the Castro brothers prevailed on Batista to include them in the release.

The two brothers sought military counsel from a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, and in 1956, with friends, launched a successful armed rebellion. In mid-1958, after Washington had withdrawn its ambassador from Havana and imposed an economic embargo, Fidel Castro proclaimed a liberated Cuban republic.

To summarize what turned an apparently blossoming friendship with the United States to bitter enmity: Castro nationalized foreign holdings, sending American business into uproar; was befriended by the Soviet Union, so announced that he was a Communist; frightened Cubans fled; the Eisenhower administration decided that Castro had to be overthrown, and the CIA prepared a ham-handed invasion that predictably failed, humiliating the United States.

The Cuban missile crisis that followed in October 1962 was produced by what Leonid Brezhnev considered an effort to protect Cuba from invasion, and an American effort to protect the U.S. from a Soviet nuclear attack. Both sides misread the other’s intentions.

All this provided a devastating example of the power of propaganda, ideology, intellectual intoxication, greed, and political fantasy to bring nations to ruin. Cuba escaped ruin – just.

Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq and Afghanistan did not escape. All later were subjected to the full blast of conventional American military power as a result of unsubstantiated ideology and false propaganda. Iraq was wrecked as punishment for not having nuclear weapons. They all are still trying to put their ruined countries together again, and still mourning their dead.

In October 1963, shortly before his assassination, President John Kennedy told a French interviewer (Jean Daniel of the weekly Nouvel Observateur), "I believe that there is no country in the world including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country’s policies during the Batista regime….[T]o some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins.”

We have paid, and the Cubans paid much more heavily than Americans, ever since -- to no purpose. Now, Americans seem ready to make the Iranians pay the price of our obsessions. We will pay too, as we always have before. Will there be anyone someday to apologize?

© Copyright 2013 by Tribune Media Services International


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