MASADA'S REACH: REPERCUSSIONS OF U.S., ISRAELI WAR WITH IRAN
By Mike Gravel
It saddens all who respect the distinguished Israeli historian Benny Morris to see him join forces with Vice President Dick Cheney’s neocon cabal, which dictates Middle East policy for the Bush White House, and AIPAC, which influences the majority of the U.S. Congress. The New York Times, the self-styled newspaper of national record, published the incendiary Morris op-ed article, Using Bombs to Stave Off War, on July 22 in its continuing effort to gin up a needless and dangerous war with Iran.
Morris, who has long fought for the humane treatment of the Palestinian people, is now trashing his reputation as a scholar when he repeats without proof a speciously false generalization like “every intelligence agency in the world believes the Iranian [nuclear] program is geared toward making weapons.” When talking about nuclear war, “belief and fact” are serious distinctions. The American National Intelligence Estimate, the report of 16 intelligence agencies, which compiled information from around the world, reported in 2007 that Iran had given up a nuclear weapons program in 2003. Even the Israeli Mossad can find no proof; if they could, they would shout it from the rooftops.
Morris now resorts to echoing baseless claims made by AIPAC, Pastor John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CN) that call for the U.S. and Israeli militaries to launch an unprovoked attack against Iran––essentially committing a war crime—an unprovoked invasion of another sovereign nation. Was not the Iraq War––licensed by the Lieberman resolution––crime enough?
The professor is somewhat cavalier about the loss of American lives when suggesting that it would be preferable to have the United States attack Iran. He seems not to appreciate that our unprovoked invasion of Iraq has hollowed-out our military and attributes our lack of military resolve to “the American public [which] has little enthusiasm for wars in the Islamic lands.” Obviously, it is of little concern to Morris that the costs of war have deepened America’s fiscal crisis, harmed our reputation in the world, and seriously limited our ability to respond to domestic priorities such as education, healthcare, energy and pollution.
Morris’s logic—that Iran must be attacked in order to save Israel––borders on insanity: “But should Israel’s conventional assault fail to significantly harm or stall the Iranian program, a ratcheting up of the Iranian-Israeli conflict to a nuclear level will most likely follow.” He predicts that “the Middle East will almost certainly face a nuclear war — either through a subsequent pre-emptive Israeli nuclear strike or a nuclear exchange shortly after Iran gets the bomb.” (emphasis added)
Putting aside Morris’s Armageddon scenario down the road, his conventional assault scenario, which he predicts will take place this year and will likely fail, has dire enough consequences. Iran is not Syria or Lebanon, where Israel has acted with impunity. Iran has substantial conventional weaponry and economic capability that can severely damage the vital interests of Israel and the United States. Iran is a signator of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement and is legally entitled to pursue its nuclear program––a program first introduced by the United States, and later added to by France, Germany and Russia.
The consequences of an Israeli conventional air attack will spread death and suffering far beyond the Middle East. Oil at $200 and $300 a barrel is not difficult to predict. A global depression would be unavoidable in view of the world’s fragile economic state. This catastrophe would easily be identified as the thoughtless act of Israel and would surely unleash a worldwide firestorm of anti-Semitic hatred. An attack on Iran is not in the world Jewish community’s best interest.
The consequences of war are always unpredictable. Europe in August 1914, Vietnam, Iraq and Lebanon come to mind. But for a reasonable person to suggest initiating a nuclear exchange in one of the world’s flash-points and describing the consequences matter-of-factly as “a traumatic destabilization of the Middle East…serious injury to the West’s oil supply and radioactive pollution of the Earth’s atmosphere and water,” is irresponsible in the extreme.
Morris ascribes blame for this suicidal Armageddon to “the fundamentalist, self-sacrificial mindset of the mullahs who run Iran.” However, he holds blameless the messianic, self-sacrificial mindset of the corrupt politicians, backed by minority religious fanatics, who run Israel and their acolytes in the United States, Canada and throughout the Diaspora. Morris doesn’t seem to realize that he is calling for the national suicide of Israel on the order of a Masada.
Like many politic leaders, Morris appropriates with great flourish the will of the Jewish people. “Israel, believing its very existence is at stake –– and this is a feeling shared by most Israelis across the political spectrum –– will certainly make the effort. Israel’s leaders, from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert down, have all explicitly stated that an Iranian bomb means Israel’s destruction; Iran will not be allowed to get the bomb.” But, these are the words of a man who has volunteered to pour the Kool-Aid.
The overwhelming majority of Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora want peace. A poll conducted last month by a leading Israeli newspaper shows that the majority of Israelis want their government to negotiate directly with Hamas and Hezbollah and to trade land for peace. Unfortunately, Israeli leaders are no more responsive to their citizens than America’s leadership to its citizens.
Most Americans, including the overwhelming majority of Jews, in the United States realize that direct negotiation with Iran, rather than war, is the path the world should be taking. They reject the notion that diplomacy is appeasement. A poll by the pro-Israel lobbying group J Street in Washington, D.C., proves that American Jews hold the same views as Jews in Israel that peace can be attained through diplomacy not more bloodshed.
Let all who care for Israel and the wellbeing of its Muslim and Christian neighbors use their influence in their respective communities to stop this rush to insanity. We may revere the memory of Masada. Let us not live to see it repeated.