NEW YORK--In fascist societies, a tiny coterie of hoodlums denies millions a say in their future. But the few invariably dominate the many by tacit consent. Fascists immobilize the citizenry by recasting government as a movement. When doubts start to arise about one of the fascists' more ambitious moves--for example, Hitler's 1936 annexation of Austria--they launch a bigger, more ambitious gambit--say, his 1938 invasion of Czechoslovakia. Unlike plodding democracies, fascism's dynamism denies its subjects the time to digest, much less react. Blitzkrieg against Poland in 1939 made it pointless to protest the relatively bloodless absorption of the Czechs; invading the colossal USSR in 1940 made Poland seem relatively minor. Each new outrage/triumph exceeds the scope of the last; each new war eclipses its predecessor. Fascism is politics as entertainment: bigger, bawdier, and--as with the German invasion of Russia--ultimately doomed when it overreaches.
Things are a bit trickier for our Texas-grown dictator, George W. Bush, burdened as he is by our annoying insistence on forcing him to run for the office he stole fair and square. Now that the invasion of Iraq has been universally acknowledged as an unjustifiable, counterproductive distraction from a war on terror that has yet to begin, Bush needs a still bigger war to distract us even more. Then, he figures, we'll forget about Iraq the way Iraq made us forget about Afghanistan. North Korea is too dangerous and Syria is too small to do the job.
Next up: Iran. It's time to get even for the hostages.
The Bush Administration began test-marketing a war against Iran by naming it as a charter member of the Axis of Evil™. For the moment, however, electioneering to an alert-jittery electorate has forced the Bushies to place their neofascist tendencies in a lockbox. Bush and Cheney are deploying hoary Republican rhetorical ploys; referring to John Kerry as a flipflopping limousine liberal may harken to such classic GOP candidacies as Dole '96 and Reagan '80, but the war criminals of Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib are playing the role of traditional Republicans only to close the deal on a gullible electorate. Whether the Bushian neofascists win the election or opt for another end run around democracy, planning for a second-term war against Iran is already under way.
Last week's column described the Bushies' lame attempts to link Iran to 9/11. My prediction that they would float new rationales for war after Iran-al-Qaeda failed to catch on has already come to pass. Now Administration gofer Colin Powell is accusing Iran of--you guessed it--trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. The Bushies claim Iran's nuclear power plants could easily be converted into facilities for manufacturing weapons. "It is our judgment that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and a nuclear weapons program, and we'll all have to take note of this," Powell said on July 29.
They're using the same lies on Iran that they used for Iraq.
Iran, of course, had nothing to do with 9/11. It continues to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to examine its facilities. Though imperfect, Iran is a vibrant though nascent democracy that requires only the passage of time to liberate its people. But as we've seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush's wars have little to do with 9/11, WMDs or spreading democracy.
With nine percent of proven oil reserves, Iran was already the world's fifth largest producer. July 14 brought an announcement that a new oil field second in scale only to Saudi Arabia's legendary Ghawar facility had been discovered there. "Iran possesses far larger oil reserves than previously thought," writes Hooman Peimani in the Asia Times. (The Bushies floated their Iran-al-Qaeda story a few days after news broke about the Iranian oil strike.) Iran's newfound oil wealth, its strategic control of the Persian Gulf and its ideal placement for a gas and oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea--long considered the sane alternative to the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline--have mouths watering at Halliburton and the White House it controls.
But, unlike Iraq, we won't have the chance to botch the occupation of Iran. We won't get that far.
Iran's military could keep us bogged down indefinitely, à la Vietnam. It has a combined active-duty troop strength of 600,000; reserves bring the total to a million. They have a respectable navy, and least 300 fighter jets. A vast nation the size of Texas, California and Montana combined, Iran is nearly four times the size of Iraq with twice its population, living on mountainous, harsh terrain. Iranians fighting a U.S.-backed Iraqi invasion during the '80s fought ferociously, which suggests that an American expeditionary force would be met by similarly passionate resistance.
The American military, already stretched thin and forced to "call back" reservists to fight in Iraq, would probably have to go ahead with contingency plans to bring back a large-scale draft next year. At least a half-million conscripts would be needed for a fight that would likely drag on for years. Hundreds of billions of dollars would be spent on hardware and weaponry, not to mention lining the pockets of Administration-connected war profiteers. War against Iran could easily push us into the abyss of economic and moral bankruptcy. The draft would prompt tens of thousands of young American men to flee. It would push out of the community of nations once and for all.
And that's if Iran doesn't have nukes by then.
Iranian leaders, feeling the pressure of American occupation troops on their borders with Iraq to the west and Afghanistan to the east, are well aware of the fact that Bush would like to add them to their portfolio of oil-rich Muslim puppet states. The crisis ratcheted up a notch when Israel--which doesn't make a move without U.S. approval--threatened to bomb Iranian nuke plants. "The United States is showing off by threatening to use its wild dog, Israel [to attack Iran]," said Iranian spokesman Seyed Masood Jazayeri. "[But our] reaction will be so harsh that Israel will be wiped off the face of the earth and U.S. interests will be easily damaged."
We would be wise to pay attention.
Copyright 2004 Ted Rall
Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate/Ted Rall
Ted Rall online: www.rall.com