Monday, July 30, 2012

William O. Beeman--Mitt Romney’s Jerusalem Speech Panders to the Right-Wing (New America Media)

Mitt Romney’s Jerusalem Speech Panders to the Right-Wing

 Mitt Romney’s Jerusalem Speech Panders to the Right-Wing

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New America Media, Op-ed, William O. Beeman, Posted: Jul 30, 2012

Mitt Romney’s foreign policy speech to the Jerusalem Foundation in Israel on Sunday qualified him to be President—of Israel. His observations were as remarkable for what he didn’t say as for what he did. They could have been written by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, for they parallel his thinking almost exactly, and they were sharply at odds with current U.S. policy toward the region.

Mr. Romney didn’t mention the Palestinians (although he later made an invidious comparison of Palestinians to Israelis that was deemed racist by Palestinian officials), nor did he offer any remarks on the settlements in the West Bank—arguably Israel’s most pressing problem. Indeed, he explicitly called for Americans not to engage in any criticism of Israel at all, since Israelis seemed to be capable of self-critique.

What Mr. Romney did do in his talk was primarily to lambaste Iran.

He trotted out a laundry list of accusations against Iran, virtually all of which have been discredited fabrications or shown to be wildly exaggerated caricatures of Iranian thought and behavior. Among these was the hoary old accusation that Iranians had threatened to “wipe Israel off the map”—a fabrication so well known that it has its own Wikipedia page. He also repeated the old saw that Iran is the “chief State supporter of terrorism,” an unsupported assertion left over from the Bush administration. He also cited the discredited claims that the Iranian government supplied weapons used to attack Americans in Iraq—something the U.S. military tried desperately to prove with absolutely no success.

He said, “When Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust . . .” branding them as Holocaust deniers. Iran’s leaders, in fact, have never denied the Holocaust. To be sure, they have questioned its causes and results in ways that are inaccurate, but they never denied that it happened. There was even a widely applauded popular film in Iran dealing with the Holocaust and an Iranian historical figure who saved Jews from being killed.

Of course, no one denies Iran’s dismal domestic human rights record—something that should be of concern to the whole world—but Mr. Romney barely touched on this one legitimate accusation of wrongdoing on the part of the Iranian government.

These broad swipes at Iran would be just garden-variety neoconservative palaver if it weren’t for the additional steps Mr. Romney took in advancing a case for armed conflict against the Islamic Republic—steps that were both reckless and ignorant. The case is based on the favorite neoconservative hobby-horse: Iran’s nuclear program.

Mr. Romney hinted broadly that the United States would support a military strike against Iran. This would not be to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon as is current U.S. policy, but rather to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capacity. This is code for shutting down or destroying Iran’s entire nuclear development program.

Mr. Romney seems unaware of the complexities of the Iranian case. Iran is signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) along with all other states with nuclear development, except for Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. The treaty grants all signatories the inalienable right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Iran is engaged in uranium enrichment to provide fuel for nuclear generation of electricity. However, Iran is not alone in doing this. Nineteen other world states who are signatories to the NPT do so as well, and at least two, Japan and Brazil, have stated openly that they are prepared to manufacture nuclear weapons if the need arises. Even if there were any proof that Iran had a nuclear weapons program, they are far from producing even nuclear reactor fuel. Mr. Romney said, cagily, they are “five years closer” to producing a nuclear weapon—but those attacking Iran have been saying this every year since 1990, and Iran is no closer.

The history of nuclear development in Iran also involves the United States directly. The U.S. government urged the Iranians to start their program in 1970 as a move toward modernization. The nuclear facilities they are now developing are a direct outgrowth of those mutually approved plans.

The complexity of this issue is apparent to the Obama administration, which is why diplomacy has been urged by every foreign policy adviser as a means of creating confidence and settling misunderstandings and differences between Iran, the United States and its allies. Brute force designed to damage Iran’s nuclear facilities has been decried as dangerous and useless by American and Israeli military and intelligence officials.

The most ironic part of Mr. Romney’s speech came toward the end when he stated: “If you want to hear some very sharp criticisms of Israel and its policies, you don’t have to cross any borders. All you have to do is walk down the street and into a café, where you’ll hear people reasoning, arguing, and speaking their mind. Or pick up an Israeli newspaper – you’ll find some of the toughest criticism of Israel you’ll read anywhere. Your nation, like ours, is stronger for this energetic exchange of ideas and opinions.”

If Mr. Romney had taken this observation to heart and showed even a modicum of nuance in his remarks, he might have appeared statesmanlike. As it was, his speech was little more than a screed of right-wing slogans designed to please his Israeli host, and the Americans who support the most extreme right-wing policies of the Israeli government. His need to pander may go even further. Part of his live audience in Jerusalem was Israeli-supporter, billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who is bankrolling Mr. Romney’s campaign with unlimited amounts of money.
William O. Beeman is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota. He has lived and worked in the Middle East for over 40 years. He visited Iran last November, and Israel in June of this year. He is the author of The “Great Satan” vs. the “Mad Mullahs”: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other. (University of Chicago Press, 2008)


Anonymous said...

From reports in 2009:
"Contributors to the conference:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad opened the session and thanked God that, in his opinion, the Zionist regime was declining. He said "...its lifetime will be over and their interests as well as reputation will be endangered." According to the official IRNA news agency, he said that:

"The Zionist regime will be wiped out soon the same way the Soviet Union was, and humanity will achieve freedom."

He called for elections among:

"Jews, Christians and Muslims so the population of Palestine can select their government and destiny for themselves in a democratic manner."

He referred to the Holocaust as a "myth" several times during his speech.

Georges Theil of France said:
"Ahmadinejad's Holocaust comment opened a new window in international relations on this issue. Twenty years ago, it was not possible to talk about [the] Holocaust and any scientific study was subject to punishment. This taboo has been broken, thanks to Mr. Ahmadinejad's initiative."

Theil maintains that the Nazis never used poison gas against Jews. He was convicted earlier in 2006 for "contesting the truth of crimes against humanity."

David Duke, a former Louisiana Republican state representative elected in 1989, former Imperial Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, 2 and author of a propaganda novel titled "Jewish Supremacism: My awakening to the Jewish Question," 3 denied the existence of the gas chambers that the Nazis used to exterminate millions of Jews, Roma, and others. Duke said that:
"Depicting Jews as the overwhelming victims of the Holocaust gave the moral high ground to the Allies as victors of the war and allowed Jews to establish a state on the occupied land of Palestine."

Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, a former interior minister and one of the founders of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah said:
"All the studies and research carried out so far have proven that there is no reason to believe that the Holocaust ever occurred and that it is only a tale."

Historian Wolfgang Froehlich from Austria handed out reprints of his paper to attendees. He has already served a two-year jail sentence for denying the Holocaust, and did not want to risk reading it out loud.
Nabil Soleiman, an adviser to the ministry of religious affairs in Syria, said:
"If the Holocaust ever occurred, it was a conspiracy against the Arab-Islamic world as today the Middle East is still paying the consequences."

Ahmadinejad also said that homosexuals do not exist in Iran (by the way).
And lately the vice-president of Iran said that the Talmud was the reason for drug running.
There is no doubt,none that Iran and its proxy sponsor terror. Hezbollah was responsible for the bombing in Lebanon that killed 243 marines.
The US military did establish that the weapons used against troops in Iraq came from Iran.
Much of what you have to say is beyond blather.
To put it bluntly, you lie.

William Beeman said...

In reply to "Anonymous" First it would be nice if you would reveal your identity, since I am quite up front about who I am.

Second, Romney and other commentators always use the formula: "Israel has threatened to wipe Israel off the map" or some such variation. That has absolutely never happened, without question.

First, President Ahmadinejad has no more say in Iranian foreign affairs than Michelle Bachman in U.S. Foreign affairs. He has a big mouth and a big podium. That is all. He certainly could never give any order to annihilate anyone. He does not speak for the State in these matters, and his thoughts are not translatable into public policy.

Second he makes a clear distinction between Zionism and the Israeli state. Since there is a serious anti-Zionist movement in Israel itself, this concept should not be strange to anyone.

Third, the original quote as anyone can see and research, was a quote from Ayatollah Khomeini from 1978 which said nothing about wiping Israel off the map, but was rather a suppositional statement about the "Zionist occupiers of Al-Qods (Jerusalem)" (possibily) disappearing from the pages of time." Everything you quoted is consistent with that view. Because you don't know Persian, you also don't know that the word "myth" is a mistranslation of the Persian "ostureh" which means story or account, but is also extended to mean myth when applied to clearly fictional things. Context determines the reading, and clearly the English translators have chosen the most invidious meaning of what is actually quite a neutral word.

Your associations of David Duke and Georges Theil are absurd. They have nothing to do with the Iranian pronouncements. They are generated in a completely different historical and cultural context. Your citation of Mr. Mohtashampour as some kind of proof of Iran's holocaust denial is rather odd, since you quote an American, an Austrian and a French holocaust denier--also minor political figures in their nations--without implicating either the American, Austrian or the French governments. No one denies that there are people everywhere with completely abhorrent ideas. That doesn't mean that these ideas constitute the policies of their governments.

I have written about Mr. Ahmadinejad's homosexuality comments--you can find them if you search this blog.

Regarding the marines in Lebanon, this was never proven, and there is ample documentation to demonstrate this.

But mostly you totally miss the point. If the United States is to have a reasonable foreign policy it must be based on some modicum of truth. These myths and distortions of Iranian actions and statements only convince the Iranians that dealing with us is hopeless, since we lie about them all the time. And there is certainly some truth to this, as you have clearly demonstrated. If this is the depth of Mr. Romney's understanding, then we are in deep, deep trouble on foreign policy, because he showed himself to be nothing but a superficial sloganeer.

To quote you: Much of what you say is beyond blather. To put it bluntly, you lie.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you are upfront about who you are. It is the nature of pompous windbags to be up upfront.
It does not matter what my name is.
What does matter is that the truth be told.
Regarding the Holocaust conference in Iran, the mere fact that there was such conference is damning. The attendees that I listed were all part of that conference. They were all invited.
You say that Amadinejad has no say in foreign policy. How about his VP Rahimi who said that the Talmud is the basis for the spread of drugs throughout the world?
Perhaps you would have us believe that Ayatollah Khamenei is the last word, although you have previously indicated that no single voice prevails in Iranian foreign or domestic policy.
Khamenei indicated the Zionist state was a cancer to be extirpated.
The chief of staff of the armed forces called for the full annihilation of Israel.
So who's in charge or is no one in charge?
The anti-Israel statements are actually antisemetic statements. This is revealed in a recent speech by Ahmadinejad:
"It has now been some 400 years that a horrendous Zionist clan has been ruling the major world affairs, and behind the scenes of the major power circles, in political, media, monetary, and banking organisations in the world, they have been the decision makers, to an extent that a big power with a huge economy and over 300 million population, the presidential election hopefuls must go kiss the feet of the Zionists to ensure their victory in the elections.... If the people's votes really counts in those countries, why then a candidate must go to kiss the feet of a clandestine Zionist minority, sacrificing the entire prestige, chanted mottoes, and values of their system before the Zionists, and justifying the entire criminal acts of that regime?"
400 years of Zionism?
Regarding the 1983 Marine Barracks
bombing Hezbollah did not actually annonunce itself until 1985. They did not claim responsibility but they praised the martyrs. Nevertheless they were involved and one of their operatives- Mughiniyah was indicted for his role in planning the attack. But the most damning evidence was a NSA intercept rom Iran to its ambassador in Damascus ordering the bombing which happened 28 days later.
I think that you actually believe some of the lies you tell, but this does not relieve you of the responsibility, since you are in a position to mislead the young people in your institution Hopefully they will be able to do their own thinking when released from your noxious influence.