Conventional 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?