I got a ride in a Time Machine !! Back to when CIA re-pitched Iran as “Ming the Merciless”
CIA needed a substitute for Naziism and Communism. Wahhabi Islam, al-Qaida are financed out of Saudi/GCC. They wouldn't do.
Even later as ISIS and all the lovely Muslim Brotherhood death squads… “Free Syrian Army”… wouldn't do.
So of course, what else? Iran became the new monster state. Words from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the mechanic, became synonymous with the past, present and future of all Persians.
Here's the former head of the CIA tossing the new-ish pitch at Herzliya, Israel. His audience ran to a wide geographic distribution of defense ministry people and connected mid-level politicians.
My time machine whirs softly, a low A with moderate vibrato, suitable for 2007:
James Woolsey stepped up to the podium. He was sharp, focused and serious, exactly as a former head of the CIA should be. He went straight to the point and very soon touched on the audience’s most sensitive point: the Holocaust. The Iranian, Iraqi, Lebanese and Syrian ‘challenges’, according to Woolsey, should correctly and jointly be thought of as ‘Islamist totalitarianism’, the ‘defeat of which I believe is the great challenge of our age, just as the defeat of Nazism and the defeat of Communism were’. There were sparkling eyes in the audience, and he was heading for glory. ‘Destroying Israel and the US is the essence of the Iranian state,’ Woolsey said, ‘and trying to convince Iran to stop it is like trying to convince Hitler not to be anti-semitic.’ The crowd was now his. Woolsey didn’t lose his momentum. ‘I agree with Dr Gold,’ he said, as he looked over at the panellists. ‘Wahhabi Islam, al-Qaida and Vilayat e-Faqih cannot be treated individually. Those who say that they will not co-operate with one another are as wrong as those who claimed that the Nazis and Communists would not co-operate.’
The audience couldn’t contain its excitement and started clapping riotously. Woolsey kept his grip. ‘We should listen to what they say,’ he said, silencing the crowd, ‘just like we needed to listen to Hitler.’ An attentive silence spread through the room. ‘We must not accept totalitarian regimes,’ he said, ‘and we should not tolerate a nuclear weapon capability for Iran . . . If we use force, we should use it decisively, not execute some surgical strike on a single or two or three facilities. We need to destroy the power of the Vilayat e-Faqih if we are called upon and forced to use force against Iran.’ Next Woolsey took his audience to Syria. ‘It is a shame,’ he said, that Israel and the US failed to ‘participate in a move against Syria last summer’. He paused. ‘Finally,’ he said, looking into his audience’s eyes, ‘we must not forget who we are. We, as Jews, Christians and others, are heirs of the tradition deriving from Judaism.’ Woolsey chose an American and Jewish ending. ‘Elijah had it right in confronting Ahab, and Thomas Jefferson had it right in the one sentence of his that circles your head as you stand in front of his statue in Washington DC: “I have sworn on the altar of almighty God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”’
The audience went wild; Woolsey had outlined the ultimate battle between good and evil and they were on the side of good. Someone rose to his feet. And someone else, and someone else, and someone else. I looked at the audience, amazed. They were cheering as one. This wasn’t funny. Israel is the strongest country in the Middle East, the only country in the region with nuclear power, the only state that co-operates unquestioningly with the world’s only superpower. Why do we have such a short memory? Why don’t we remember the circumstances that led to the invasion of Iraq and the 600,000 Iraqis who have died over the last four years? [Final total, 1,455,000. This is 2007.] Why are Israelis so eager to fight Syria, when Damascus seems to want to sit down and talk? How can the nation that suffered immeasurably in the Holocaust let people use the memory of six million Jews as an instrument to gain international support?
The whole of the piece is here: Yoni Mendel discussing covering the Herzliya Conference.
Woolsey had followed Dore Gold, author of “Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism.” Then Professor Bernard Lewis: “What Went Wrong? The Clash between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East. Clash of Civilisations.” And Moshe Yaalon, famous for saying that Israel should “sear deep ‘into the consciousness of the Palestinians that they are a defeated people.”
Nice warm up, eh?
Yaalon was on drugs. (What else?) He got lost in his arguments with this whopper:
“The conflict after the 1979 revolution in Iran turned into a clash of civilisations. This is the Third World War. If the West yearns for life, it cannot run away from a confrontation with Jihadi Islam, and – first and foremost – with the Iranian regime.”
That's absurd. Could have been bourbon, not drugs. What's known as “Jihadi Islam” is 100% Sunni. The stuff of suicide bombers.
The Iranians and their Shi'ia never do suicide attacks except as acts of war. They don't attack “soft targets” and kill civilians. The hit on the Marine BLT Barracks in Beirut in 1983 is a perfect example of one of their suicide attacks. reagan had sided with Saddam Hussein with shiploads of war materials, killing thousand of Iranians. Taking out the Marines was wartime revenge.
Hell, they have national elections that mean something. Iran as a crazed Ming the Merciless character ???
So that's when the bizarre/fantastic/goof ball notion went out at this international conference — from Woolsey — that Iran had become a conquering super power. Bent on nuclear war.
The world got a shiny America-made Excalibur for America's favorite theme: perpetual war.
And of course the Persians were forever an existential threat to Israel.
Yes, the article at LRB is worth a careful read. You'll like the writing. Yoni got talent.
Good news below the fold……