Monday, July 23, 2007
No, this isn't about 'climate change'. It is about another kind of annihilism (which term may, and should, be contrasted with 'Islamic nihilism' whenever that preposterous phrase is issued). It is about threats that will not be 'taken off the table'. It is a truism of American political discourse that no option - not even the nuclear one - can be taken off the table with respect to Iran. From Rudi Giuliani to Hillary Clinton (across that vast ideological spectrum), the prospect of Iranians getting their Hiroshima and Nagasaki is officially not 'off the table'. Gordon Brown earlier today refused to take the military option "off the table" with regard to Iran, but he hasn't as yet raised the prospect of turning Tehran and its citizens into a boiling twelve mile high column of white hot dust and smoke capped by future fall-out. Rest assured, he will get round to it. What does it mean not to take an option "off the table"? Firstly, it is to put an option "on the table" that wasn't there before. Obviously in the case of Iran, it is also a calculated insult: you may not strive to possess weapons even at the level of our imaginations; however, we will not only possess them, but we will proliferate them, and threaten you with them, and few will notice the absurdity. It is nuclear terrorism with added irony.
Additionally, this 'table' is more tilted than usual, since no one else has any 'option' but to comply or be punished. Imagine Chavez saying that he wouldn't remove 'the option' of eating Bush's liver with fava beans and a fine chianti from 'the table'. That would be certainly be a much less wicked transaction than atomic megadeath, and no innocent people need die from it, even if that mobile facsimile of shit they call the Vice President would be tragically still alive. Somehow, though, I expect this sound, forward-looking policy for 21st Century socialism would receive a great deal more flak from the Washington press pack ('pack' as in 'running dogs'). Well, that is to be expected. What is more insidious is the language, redolent of good husbandry, and sound strategic calculation. Never say never, don't burn your bridges, keep your options open etc etc. How very coy, and sly, and grotesque, to raise the prospect of barbecuing countless human beings as a matter of sane planning, and sensible tomorrows. And since they haven't got a whisp of an argument that could persuade us to keep paying for these weapons of mass destruction, it has to be insinuated both that they would never be used, and that they may well have to be used one day. The American, and by extension British, administration is devoted to a policy of breaking down the strict barrier between conventional obliteration and the nuclear fashioned kind. With mini-nukes, and radioactive weapons and nuclear-tipped warheads and so on, that process is already well underway. Plainly, they need to break the taboo on the use of anything both military and nuclear, and so the rhetorical escalation may well be capped by a nuclear-tipped strike on Iran's enrichment facilities and revolutionary guards depots, sure to be followed by 'we-got-away-with-it' victory celebrations.
Alarmist, you say? Possibly, but the alarm bell hasn't stopped ringing for over fifty years, and it is occasionally worth paying attention to the background noise. Furthermore, we are beseeched daily to remember what act of cartographical discourtesy Iran supposedly threatened Israel with. We are invited by America's demure and restrained political class to consider charges of genocide against that country, apparently to be accomplished through the discharge of fissile material. And you will remember that this particular bunch, far from being alarmist, worked assiduously to tell the truth about Iraq's threat to the United States. You do remember that, don't you? If you don't remember that, remember this: several high-profile American politicians have threatened Iran with nuclear strikes, while one senior British politician threatened Iraq with nuclear attacks. Neither country, quite obviously, threatened us or anyone else with the same. I merely raise the possibility that what is happening here is old-fashioned imperial transference: the murderous plots of states are almost always matched and preceded by even worse plots on the other side. If American politicians are on the one hand charging Iran with intent to destroy, and on the other hand threatening them with nuclear weapons, it is surely not a bad guess that Iran - for its revolutionary resistance to colonialism, not for its bazaari class and its religious repression and its neoliberalism - will be made an example of.