Averting another war
ERIC S. MARGOLISChinese and Japanese vessels in the sea around the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands are prowling menacingly as Beijing and Tokyo exchange threats.
A few wrong moves could spark a clash between China and Japan that would likely draw in Tokyo’s ally, the United States, which is treaty bound to defend Japan if it is attacked.
Halfway around the globe, powerful U.S. naval forces are cruising in the Gulf and Arabian Sea to intimidate Iran. A clash between U.S. and Iranian naval units or aircraft in the Gulf seems increasingly likely, as heated rhetoric on both sides increases.
Meanwhile, Israel’s rightist Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, keeps threatening to attack Iran, with or without U.S. assistance. No one can accuse him of being a flip-flopper like his ally and admirer, Mitt Romney.
Twenty years ago, in 1992, Netanyahu declared Iran would deploy nuclear weapons in three to five years. In 1995, Israeli officials warned Iran would have nuclear arms by 2000. In 1998, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned that Iran would have intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads by 2003 that could strike the United States. Netanyahu now insists Iran will have nukes within a year, although U.S. intelligence denies his claim.
Hysteria and disinformation about Iran’s nuclear program continues without relent, intensifying war fever in America, which is less than 60 days from its own elections.
Last week, a secretly-taped video emerged of candidate Romney talking to a $50,000 a plate lunch for pro-Israel supporters in Florida. Romney told the audience he could not support a Palestinian state and would stall this burning issue indefinitely. Publicly, Romney advocated a two-state solution.
Shortly before, Romney asserted at another private fundraiser that 47 percent of Americans paid no taxes, were freeloaders, and thus naturally supported President Barack Obama. Romney’s remark sparked outrage, coming from a multi-millionaire who never seems to have paid more than 15 per cent taxes thanks to a shady scheme of converting corporate profits into lower-taxed dividends.
While Romney was floundering, rightwing Republicans were on the warpath after the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya — which looked to this old Libya hand like payback for the U.S.-assisted killing of Muammar Gaddafi.
Republican hawks demanded that Obama “take action” and “get tough” with the troublesome Muslim world. Alas, for those howling for revenge, the killers of the ambassador remained for now unidentified.
So what targets were left for the enraged Republican sofa samurais? Bomb Tripoli or Cairo? Former president George W. Bush was a great one for “taking action.” The result: the disasters in Afghanistan and Iraq, the wrecking of America’s once vibrant economy, and over $1 trillion in debt to finance these lost wars.
Independent voters, who will probably decide the November election, are better-educated and more worldly than the core Republican blue collar and Bible Belt voters. Many were aghast at Romney’s calls for more war, his painful ignorance of foreign affairs, and close identification with Israel’s far-right policies.
Barack Obama may have achieved very little in his foreign policy, but a President Romney looks like he might be a disaster – a sort of George W. Bush on steroids. In fact, Romney is surrounded by the same cast of far-right, pro-Israel neoconservative nut cases that misled the foolish Bush into wars.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu is lambasting Obama and getting away with it, backed by Republicans and neo-cons. The danger here is that the Israeli leader may conclude that - having tied Obama’s hands - he can go ahead and use tactical nuclear weapons to destroy Iran’s underground nuclear facilities.
The very idea of Israel or Iran attacking one another’s nuclear plants is madness. The result would be a global radioactive catastrophe, particularly so for the Gulf states. The world has so far ignored this danger.
By encouraging Israel’s far-right to threaten Iran with war, Romney is being irresponsible and reckless. He is showing that he is not ready for the presidency, never mind global leadership.
President Obama has been a terrible disappointment to those who hoped he would end America’s militarized foreign policy and the Bush era’s violation of rights. However, the blundering Romney now makes Obama look wise and saintly.
*Eric S. Margolis is a veteran U.S. journalist