What Everyone “Knows” About Iran

Iran Magnifying GlassConventional wisdom is a pox on our society. The problem isn’t that it is wrong — often times it is not. The problem is that it is invisible. I noted a great example of this a couple days ago in an otherwise good article by Jonathan Chait, Why Benjamin Netanyahu Lost His Mind. It is about how the Israeli leader is really screwing up by alienating Obama and thus the entire Democratic Party. It is quite possible that Democrats will control the White House for the next decade. Is he really looking out for the best interests of his country? I doubt it. But craven politicians are not something unique to the United States.

But in discussing the issue, Chait wrote, “One obvious cause of the Zionist right’s deepening millennialism is Iran’s quest to obtain a nuclear weapon.” So it isn’t the belief of the Zionist right, it is the fact that Iran is in a quest for a nuclear weapon. How it is that Chait “knows” this is not a mystery: it is what everyone “knows”! But it is not based upon evidence. It just seems right. Of course Iran would want a nuclear weapon! What fundamentalist theocracy wouldn’t want a nuclear weapon?!

I know that people may scoff and my having a problem with this, but I have a good reason. In the lead up to the Iraq war, it was just taken as a fact that of course Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. And the fact that Hussein repeatedly said that he didn’t have these weapons only made people think that he must. This culminated in unintentional high comedy when Scott Pelley (but there were many others saying the same thing), “So why keep the secret [that he had no WMDS]?” There was, of course, no secret keeping. In fact, the very news outlets that claimed Hussein kept this secret had previously reported his denials. For example, before the invasion, Bob Schieffer reported, “Saddam Hussein says he has no weapons of mass destruction, but should we believe him?” The answer was: of course not! Iraq was our enemy, so it wasn’t necessary to find evidence.

With regard to Iran, all the actual evidence indicates that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. After the Iranian revolution, the government shut down the Shah’s nuclear weapons program. Much later, the Iranian government seemed to do some fairly trivial research toward nuclear weapons. But for at least 12 years, there does not seem to have been any Iranian nuclear weapons program. But there could be. Just as with the teapot orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars, we can’t prove the negative.

The casual assumption that of course Iran has a nuclear weapons program is very dangerous. There are many powerful people in the United States who want to go to war with Iran for the very purpose of stopping its nuclear weapons program. Because they “know” that Iran has one and that it would be the end of the world if Iran got such a weapon. And these people are part of a larger delusion that we know that Iran has a nuclear weapons program.

But we don’t. And if we invaded Iran, I’m pretty sure that we would find that Iran did not, in fact, have a nuclear weapons program. And we would doubtless hear from many mainstream commentators the burning question, “So why keep the secret that Iran had no nuclear weapons program?” We have the perfect media system — for a fascist state.


While looking for images to go with this article, I came upon a lot of political cartoons. They were almost without exception mocking the idea that Iran didn’t have nuclear weapons. What good is a free press when even the political cartoonists all repeat the government line?

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

4 thoughts on “What Everyone “Knows” About Iran

  1. What made the WMD fairytales even stupider is that you get nukes precisely to tell the world I Have Nukes. This is why we haven’t invaded North Korea; they have nukes, and could probably lob one at South Korea or Japan if we invaded. (It wouldn’t be accurate, but nukes don’t have to be accurate, and even if it didn’t go off a rocket with radioactive material does a lot of bad things when it crashes into the ground.)

    If you look at this from Iran’s POV they have every reason to try and convince the West they are weeks away from having nukes. They would probably like some sort of guarantee they won’t be invaded/couped anytime soon. They probably also know any such promises aren’t worth the paper said promises written on and are trying to get the best deal they can.

    Although the “millennialism” of the Israeli right isn’t caused by Iran, merely stoked by the latest “they’re gonna wipe us out” enemy du jour, I’d be surprised if Bibi didn’t believe it 100%. If you listen to Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld etc., they all adamantly maintain the WMD story. They probably have made themselves believe it. Nobody wants to think of themselves as a bad person, and the more your notion of yourself as a good person depends on your believing something, no matter how ludicrous, the more likely you will believe that thing.

    Compared to these wingnuts Kissinger seems like the very model of self-refelctive honesty!

    • I’m sure that having a nuke helps North Korea. But they hardly need it. We wouldn’t invade the country because then we would be at war with China. I think the main reason North Korea got a nuke is for prestige.

      At this point, I just don’t think Netanyahu is all that smart. I think of him as the Israeli Ted Cruz. He’s a true believer. It’s funny what’s happened in Israel. The left used to have a fair amount of power. But the right figured out that they could defeat the left by simply claiming to be for a two state solution. I see no evidence that the Israeli right is at all interested in a two state solution. They figure they can delay until it is an impossibility and that then the US will protect them. The problem is that Netanyahu is busy alienating the left in the US. And that is incredibly stupid.

      • Assuming the US will protect you is hugely stupid. The oil resources of the Middle East may be important to us for another hundred years, maybe another 20, who knows, but they will not be important forever, and once those resources are no longer important Israel is no longer an important regional ally. Plus, why assume the US will be militarily omnipotent forever?

        There’s an odd mixture of viewpoints in the right wing. One sincerely believes that dumb-dumb policies will create security and prosperity (for the right people) forever; it’s a fantasy long-term view. Another could give less of two shits if policies ruin societies so long as those policies create lucrative opportunities. (Less “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic” than selling the deck chairs, ripping out the copper guard rails for scrap, double booking lifeboat seats, etc.) That’s a very realistic short-term view. And yet the two viewpoints find common ground. See! We can all get along!

        • That’s interesting. I hadn’t considered that we might support Israel just because of its strategic location. I’m sure that’s part of it. It is also that Israel seems like a little bastion of the West in the Middle East. Interestingly, Americans now consider Jews “white” — something the bigots certainly weren’t doing a century ago. So it is a racist thing too. Just the same, if it weren’t for the oil, I doubt America would pay much attention at all. It isn’t that we would be hostile, just apathetic — as usual when our strategic interests are not involved.

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