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Friday, March 30, 2007

Roger Ailes & Co. needs to know the truth about Iran

Before 9/11 Fox News was no doubt a conservative leaning network. That was after all Roger Ailes intent when the network began in 1996, and hired a largely conservative pool of hosts and commentators. But prior to 9/11 Fox News was a subtle conservative network, leaning its news reports to the right but without the shouting and screaming of some other networks, most notably MSNBC which prior to the re-hiring of Keith Olbermann in 2003 seemed intent on gagging any progressive opinion. Fox News was in fact refreshing in many ways because they had intellegent reasoned opinion on some shows, most notably Brit Hume and Tony Snow's show. No doubt the hosts leaned right, but both had good panels and asked fair questions. But that all changed after 9/11.

Since 9/11 and especially since the start of the Iraq War, FOX News has been a blatant propaganda machine for the administration and for the Republican Party. I would argue that calling them conservative is a total mis-label because they are in fact merely partisan hacks. Conservative opinion leaders like Pat Buchanan, Tucker Carlson and Joe Scarborough all of whom are on MSNBC don't sound anything like the hacks on FOX in their rhetoric. In fact Tom DeLay once called Tucker Carlson a phony conservative because Carlson was advocating conservative spending bills in congress. God forbid!

Last night after watching Hannity and Colmes for the first time in I don't know how long. The show was ridled with errors with little opposition from the so-called liberal, Alan Colmes.

Oliver North was the first guest. He proceeded to blame the current Iran hostage crisis on the appeasement of Democrats in Congress towards Iran and on Jimmy Carter. Never mind the appeasement the United Kingdom has engaged in themselves towards Iran since 1979. Never mind then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's comment in 2003 that "Iran is a budding democracy that is a model for the region," just before the Anglo/American led forces invaded Iraq to impose what we must assume in the British eyes was an Iranian style "Democracy."

North then proceeded to chastise the Clinton administration for its handling of Iran. This is an outrageous claim when you consider the record of Clinton versus the three GOP administrations on the issue of Iran. Bill Clinton has been since 1979 the only American President whose public rhetoric towards Iran matched his administrations actions.

Newt Gingrich was the next guest. Gingrich too blamed the Democrats for appeasement and claimed Jimmy Carter was responsible for all the problems the US faces in the Middle East. (This is particularly odd considering Carter probably has the most credibility of any American citizen in that part of the world. Certainly he has more credibility than any Republican President or Republican Administration official.) Gingrich also stated that the Democrats are eager for an American defeat in Iraq, even though Gingrich didn't define what an American victory in Iraq would look like. Gingrich also implied Iran was killing the majority of American soldiers in Iraq, even though an estimated 92% of American casualties have been caused by Sunni insurgents backed by American allies, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt. Their are plenty of reasons to confront Iran but as usual this administration muddies its message. Much like using the WMD and 9/11 arguments against Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion when a simple "it's in our interests and we need to take out this dangerous regime" would have done. If toppling a regime is in our national security interests, much as we did during the cold war, we don't need another explanation. The truth is toppling Saddam Hussien, already crippled by international sanctions was not in our interests whatsoever, but that is a discussion for another day.

Here are some facts regarding Iran and the GOP:

  • In 1983, Iranian backed terrorists killed over 250 US Marines in Beirut. The response of the Reagan Administration was to "cut and run" from Beirut and then negotiate with the Iranians covertly. Oliver North was the leader of these negotiations which helped arm Iran at a very moment when Iraq appeared ready to consolidate control over disputed territory between the two nations.
  • Reagan in a Jack Straw moment claimed his administration's outreach to Iran was to make contact with so-called "moderate elements."
  • During the Bush I administration the enforcement of American sanctions on Iran was selective at best. US companies, particularly oil companies were allowed to do business in Iran via their subsidiaries in other countries. In fact one estimate claimed that by the mid 1990s, 20% of all oil on the American market was coming from Iran, against the intent and wishes of the Congress and quite frankly the American people.
  • When President Clinton in 1995 announced he was forcefully enforcing the sanctions against Iran, oil company executives went crazy, but Clinton did not back down.
  • In 2001, in our desire to eliminate the Taliban quickly from Afghanistan we worked with the Northern Alliance, armed and funded by the mullahs in Tehran. This was done under the watch of Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. Yet instead of thanking the Iranians, Bush grouped them in the Axis of Evil, ushering a new round of terrorism and saber rattling on both sides.
  • In 2003, Ahmed Chalibi, suburban Detroit resident and agent of the Iranian Government was praised by the President in his State of the Union as the potential leader of a free Iraq. Chalabi as is well known was a fixture in meetings with the administration about postwar planning.
  • The surge that conservative pundits claim is working has reduced the estimated number of daily deaths in Baghdad from 20 to 16. Given this reduction in deaths in the Capital, which has not been reflected across the rest of Iraq, does this mean we need a similar surge using ill equipped and ill trained national guardsmen in the other trouble spots in the nation? Also, does this mean we need to make a permanent commitment to station troops in Baghdad? The only way the surge can truly work is if the Iraqi forces can themselves police Baghdad and to this point they have proven they cannot. Actually they have proven they do not want to.

Now this administration wants to make war against Iran. I personally am fine with that, if we were capable. Unlike a weak and pathetic Iraq, Iran should have been in the cross hairs of the US military 20 years ago. Over the last two decades Iran has taken advantage of the weakness coming from the USSR and then Russia, the inconsistency of the US, and the coddling of the UK, France and Germany to become a regional superpower without equal in post World War I Middle Eastern history. Iran must be contained, but it seems less and less likely that the US is capable of doing anything right in the Middle East.

At this point our military is stretched to the brink and any attempt at handling Iran via armed conflict is doomed to fail without the use of nuclear weapons. Disarming Iran may require the use of bunker busting nuclear arms anyhow. Do we really want to launch a Nuclear War against Iran? No doubt the Iranian regime deserves to be toppled and humiliated in front of the world. But launching a nuclear attack will destroy whatever remaining soft power and diplomatic credibility the US still maintains and thus must be avoided at all reasonable costs.

But right now thanks to the continued military and diplomatic failures of this administration, the United States is completely helpless to affect actions in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and other Sunni nations that are frightened of the Iranian threat are turning to each other rather than to the United States in an attempt to contain Iranian aggression. At the same time the US is backing what is essentially a pro Iranian Government in Iraq. This Government is backed by official American policy, conservative pundits and yes Roger Ailes and Fox News. It seems the American "right" despite some lofty rhetoric is doing more to help Iran than to really hurt them.

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I am the host of the Major League Soccer Talk and EPL Talk Podcasts and am frequent guest on other (world) football shows. I am also the publisher of various other websites including this one. I work in public/government relations in addition to my soccer work and have a keen interest in history, politics, aviation, travel,and the world around us.