I don’t think this will actually surprise any of you, but a new survey shows that Americans’ fear of Iran has risen dramatically in the last few months.

Today, 27% of Americans cite Iran as the country that represents the greatest danger to the United States. In October, just 9% pointed to Iran as the biggest danger to the U.S., while there was far more concern over Iraq, China and North Korea. Nearly two-thirds (65%) believe that Iran’s nuclear program is a major threat to the U.S.

Overwhelming numbers believe that if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons it would likely launch attacks on Israel (72%), and the U.S. or Europe (66%).

Now doesn’t that sound familiar?  The increase in rhetoric from the administration and its allied media outlets has caused a major increase in the number of Americans who feel Iran is the greatest danger to the United States.

Even if Iran wasn’t just one letter different from Iraq, and the country next door, it would be hard to miss the parallels between how people feel now about Iran and how they felt about Iraq in late 2002 and early 2003 in the run up to the War of Occupation.

This is a classic case of orchestrated propaganda.  An objective analysis would show that Al-Qaeda, which has killed at least 3000 Americans and caused billions of dollars of damage, and North Korea, which possesses actual nuclear weapons AND missiles to deliver them AND has threatened to use them AND is still technically at war with the United States, would be two much more credible threats.  Iran on the other hand, has never attacked Americans abroad or on their own soil.  Even the 1979 revolution ended in a handover of the hostages, frightened and exhausted but unhurt.

As I’ve written about before, government propaganda is actually a relatively new “science” and developed about 90 years ago.  In a time when mass media was in its infancy, Woodrow Wilson (now known for his telegraph wiretapping) hired a journalist, Walter Lippman, and a psychologist, Edward Bernays, to coordinate a massive propaganda campaign.  Woodrow Wilson, campaigning earlier on non-involvement in World War 1, got Congress to declare war (what a quaint notion, eh?) yet the majority of the public remained unconvinced of the necessity of sending American boys overseas to their deaths.  Bernays and Lippman organized thousands of people to deliver targeted, focused 4-minute speeches in cities across America.

Not only did it work in changing public opinion 180 degrees, its spectacular success got the attention of Adolf Hitler, who later hired Paul Joseph Goebbels to further refine and use the techniques.  The Nazi regime was evil and despicable but their use of propaganda was truly genius.

Goebbels took control of the news media, making sure it only presented the Nazi government’s policies in a favorable light.  Goebbels also made the issue of Nazi ideology (including the hatred of Jews) a question of German patriotism, so that if you criticized the Nazis you were being unpatriotic.  Goebbels also set up government boards to make sure that all private broadcasts met the Nazi’s standards, in effect censoring them.  Most Germans were also cut off from media coming from outside Germany, isolating them from the rest of the world.

Perhaps Goebbels’ most famous technique is known as the Big Lie, which actually was developed by Hitler before his rise to power.  The concept is to tell a lie “so big that no one could believe it” enough times that people will actually believe it.  Here’s what the OSS, the American precursor to the CIA, said about it:

His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.

All very familiar to us now.  Think for a second about the Big Lie told about Iraq in 2002 and 2003.  It wasn’t that Iraq had WMD, because it was plausible that they had hidden away some banned missiles (of course the inspectors never got a chance to finish the job).  No, the big lie was that Iraq had a nuclear weapon and the proof would come in a “mushroom cloud” in the United States.  That those aluminum tubes that Powell spoke about to the UN were part of this program.  That Iraq had unmanned remote controlled airplanes which would somehow cross thousands of miles to buzz over American cities and dispense death and destruction.  All Big Lies, completely ridiculous without a shred of proof, and yet believed because they were repeated often enough.

The Bush administration carefully controls who is allowed into their briefings, often refusing to call on reporters like Helen Thomas, who ask questions unfavorable to White House policy aims.  The administration decides who gets to travel on Air Force 1 and they have locked out journalists they don’t like.  They plant fake journalists like Gannon/Guckert to ask pro-administration questions.  Look at the White House website and see how many times officials have been interviewed on conservative media outlets like Hannity & Colmes or Rush Limbaugh.

The administration often will only speak “off the record” to journalists who will promptly report what they want said.  They use reporters like Judith Miller not only to print White House policy verbatim but to use her articles as some kind of “substantiation” of their own policy.  Bush has almost never attended any event, in America or overseas, where the questions were not scripted ahead of time and pre-approved by the White House.  The administration not only directly pays people like Armstrong Williams to support their policies, but they produce fake “news clips” for distribution on commercial television with no mention of who actually created them.

The administration also makes sure that cronies are in the jobs which censor the media, determining what and what is not acceptable.  The FCC not only does that but they also get to make up the rules on which media groups get to own what, allowing for massive consolidation of radio and TV stations in a few hands.  And many of those hands, like Clear Channel Communications, are controlled by the big businesses which help put the current administration in the White House.  When the Dixie Chicks had the “audacity” to criticize the President overseas, their music was withdrawn from airplay.  When citizens volunteered to hold anti-war demonstrations, media groups like Clear Channel bought and paid for pro-war counter demonstrations.

There is no law actually forbidding international television stations from broadcasting in the United States but the fact remains that Americans are some of the most culturally isolated people on Earth.  99% of the newspapers,  television and radio stations are broadcasting material created and made in America.  And look at the administration’s reaction when Venezuela, Brazil and Uruguay created Telesur to have an independent voice in current affairs.  Or the administration’s reaction to Al-Jazeera, which is about to launch an English-language station.  Americans get a lot of news from Al-Jazeera, perhaps indirectly, from tapes by Osama bin Laden or Zawahri (heavily critical of the administration) to photos and video of dead and injured Iraqis.  It’s no wonder Bush wanted to bomb them out of existance.

When Bush was in Russia in 2005, he made a crack about how the Russian press was not free, especially in contrast with the situation in America.  The Russian journalists took him to task, and many writers (including myself) showed countless cases of American governmental interference, censorship and the use of allies (whether partisan talk shows or the Vice President’s chief of staff) to discredit and defame anyone who criticizes the White House’s policies.  The White House has a well-oiled propaganda machine, headed up by the infamous Karl Rove.

It’s worth mentioning here that Goebbels was not a minor cabinet member.  He was third in line after Hitler and by the end of the war was actually named President in Hitler’s will.  Hitler knew damn well that propaganda was the key to his regime and that’s why Bush continues to protect and reward Karl Rove and other propaganda ministers like Karen Hughes.

Just this week, Undersecretary of State Joseph for Arms Control and International Security, Robert Joseph, said Iran has “all the necessary components” for a nuclear bomb and the means to deliver it.  Yesterday, the State Department spokesperson, Sean McCormack, confirmed this, adding that the if they knew how to produce a nuclear weapon, they would.  This is all a Big Lie.  It may be true next year or in 20 years, but it isn’t true now.

What is actually true is that the IAEA has found no evidence whatsoever that Iran either has a nuclear weapon or is actively seeking to make one.  The IAEA, with inspectors on the ground and video cameras and experts, has actually stated and discovered that Russia is building a nuclear energy plant for Iran and that Iran is conducting experiments to enrich their own uranium to fuel that and future plants.  That’s the truth.  Furthermore, Iran does have some missiles but they are incapable of reaching the United States (some 4000 miles away) or Europe.

Refining uranium to use in energy plants is an order of magnitude easier and less complex than refining uranium to weapons grade, suitable for use in a nuclear weapon.  Imagine winnowing a needle (U235, the useful isotope) out of a haystack (U92, ordinary uranium).  That’s what you need to be able to be able to do to enrich uranium.

To get enough for a nuclear bomb, you need to operate at least 60,000 needle-finder machines (centrifuges) 24 hours a day for years on end.  And the Iranians are not even at the stage where they can refine uranium for energy use, and that’s the easy part.

Is the Iranian regime an abuser of human rights, a country where people do not live in freedom? Of course.  Does Iran do despicable things, including financing terrorists and calling for the destruction of Israel? Yes of course.  And Saddam Hussein was a bastard too, gassing Kurds and torturing tens of thousands in his dungeon at Abu Ghraib.  But just because they’re awful people doesn’t mean that they can contravene the laws of reality.

Let me put it simply: neither Iraq nor Iran has nuclear weapons or is anywhere close to having them.  And if by some amazing, time and space-bending feat they managed to acquire them, they’re still no threat to the United States.

Yeah you heard me right.  Neither Iran nor Iraq has ever attacked the United States, not once.  Not only did they never issue a military strike on American soil, they’ve never even attacked an American citizen overseas.  Not once in history.  The opposite is true of course, including Operation Ajax, which overthrew the democratically elected president of Iran, but that’s another story.

The American people are afraid of Iran because of deliberately crafted administration propaganda which is a lie.  You’d think that journalists, who were bamboozled by the administration’s overwhelming confidence that Iraq had WMD, would question the current administration’s remarkably similar assuredness that Iran is half a step away from building and firing a nuclear-tipped missile.  But no, they aren’t.  They’ve been cowed for too long, the rebels and questioners and truly curious thinned out of the traditional media herd.

What we’re left with is the American people, bloggers and freeway sign hangers and indy newspaper publishers and street marchers.  And an 85 year old lady with a heck of a lot of courage and moxie.  And that puts the responsibility upon all of us to speak the truth.

This is cross-posted from Flogging the Simian


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