"Freedom is not merely the opportunity to do as one pleases; neither is it merely the opportunity to choose between set alternatives. Freedom is, first of all, the chance to formulate the available choices, to argue over them -- and then, the opportunity to choose." ~ C. Wright Mills
The Power of the Lie
Remember the movie "Groundhog Day"? It was the story of a man (Bill Murray) who was forced to continuously relive the worst day of his life, until he learned to become a better person. As we launch into 2006, it already has the feeling of deja vu, of a groundhog day in the making. I recall my intense scepticism when pressure was being put on Iraq, in the first stages of that relentless momentum to a pre-planned goal--war. I also recall joining tens of thousands of people in a street protest against the impending war. That was a first for me--as I'm not a "protest" sort of person. But I was so angry that I took the only option available to me to voice such anger. Not that it did any good, of course! Now we know that all that hoopla was a fabrication, that there were no WMD in Iraq, and no impending attack from that country. Doesn't matter, Saddam was a bad man, and the world is better off with one less bad man--so the revised story goes. You'd think that experience would cause our leaders to tread more carefully in the future--to at least learn from past mistakes. But this appears not to be the case. Right now, a new campaign is under way--the first steps in another relentless drive to full military confrontation with that other Middle East country, Iran. As with Iraq, the military option is being played down, and our leaders claim to be seeking a "diplomatic" solution. Listen not to words however, but observe actions. You can witness this momentum building each passing day, as the phrase, "Iran is seeking to build a nuclear weapon" passes into the common consciousness. It's not even necessary to state it as a fact (as the American administration does). All that's required is to massage these words in different ways, and present them with various shades of meaning--like how Iran is "suspected" of building a nuclear weapon, or how Iran has the "potential" to build such a weapon in the near future. Or even simply, the US administration "believes" Iran has a secret plan to build a nuclear weapon. Each headline, each newspaper editorial, and each political utterance has the mesmerising effect of slowly, but surely, imprinting in the public's mind the belief that this surely must be the case--that Iran is either planning to build, or has built, a nuclear weapon. For its part, Iran states that it is not building or thinking of building a nuclear weapon--and is prepared to allow full IAEA inspections to prove its point. It also stands firm and asserts its right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful means--i.e., electricity generation--a right it is granted as a signatory to the NPT (Nuclear Proliferation Treaty). But all of this counts for nought in the face of a persistent, relentless lie. It seems as if the human psyche is programmed to believe a repeated lie--when uttered by authority figures. It's a form of crude brainwashing, which politicians learn to use early on in their careers. Think back to Saddam Hussein again--when he was accused of harbouring WMD. Our leaders asserted he did have them. He asserted he did not. Who was telling the truth then? The best way to get a handle on this whole issue is to make an attempt to stand in another's shoes--Iran's shoes in this case. Just imagine yourself as an Iranian and consider your options. You live in a hostile environment. Your foes, Israel and the USA, are armed to the teeth and Israel is not a signatory to the NPT. It regularly threatens to attack you, and in fact has attacked Iraq, on similar grounds, in the past. You ponder on the inconsistencies of this world--a world where other nations are allowed to develop nuclear power and nuclear weapons. A world where other countries regularly use force to achieve their objectives. And a world where such countries assume the right to tell your country what it can and cannot do. You are outraged. You believe that if it's good enough for other countries to develop their nuclear technology, to meet their energy needs, then it's good enough for Iran to do likewise. If pressed, you may even assert that even though your country has no intention of building nukes, you have the right to do so for self-defence, especially when facing aggressive, nuclear-armed foes. From your viewpoint, the growing world opinion against your country is a form of mass hypocrisy. Who decided that certain nations can browbeat and bully others into submission--to conform to standards which they themselves do not observe? Who decided who should or should not be able to develop nuclear power, or even a nuclear deterrent? Are you not a member of a sovereign nation--a country with certain rights, just like other countries? You look at America and you cannot understand it. While it builds its case against your country, it continues to support other nations which already have nuclear weapons, which are not signatories to the NPT, and which are often not even democracies. You revert to your religion to explain all this--and perhaps you're right. Perhaps the West really IS at war with Islam! Right now we've reached phase one of the strategy to militarily confront Iran--with the threat of sanctions and of it being referred to the United Nations Security Council. All this happened to Iraq as well. We've been there, done that. In this case, the US and its EU allies face some opposition--most likely from China and possibly Russia. China has an ongoing and friendly relationship with Iran--not to mention important economic and energy-related business dealings. China has the power to veto any UN Security Council resolution, and is now the focus of intense diplomatic pressure from the USA, in an attempt to bring them on board with the growing "consensus." We will hear a lot about this "consensus" in coming weeks and months. The next stage will likely involve the "uncovering" of new intelligence, which will "prove" that Iran is indeed operating a secret nuclear weapons programme. This will sway any doubters and lingering dissidents--and pull world opinion into line. The clincher may come with information obtained from certain Iranians themselves--perhaps defectors from the regime. Shades of Iraq all over again. The major media--Fox News, BBC, New York Times, The Washington Post and TV and newsprint media in general--will parrot the official line, and confirm our worst fears--that Iran really does have the capacity to threaten us, and is very likely to attack us in the future. We will be told this situation is NOT like Iraq, that it is a different ball game. And most will believe it. The only medium to offer any counter to the official line will, of course, be the internet--that damn, uncontrollable cyberspace! But when it comes to impact, the internet is still not capable of truly shaping world opinion. Yes, it's a haven for dissidents and independent thinkers--but they are still the minority, and a "fly in the ointment" as far as the campaign for total global information control is concerned. You and I will have no means of verifying this type of military intelligence, of course, and will be faced with the choice of either accepting or rejecting it. But I know one thing, most people will accept it as true--simply because it is asserted by their rulers. It will be believed because it is stated by those in power--those who MUST be believed. God knows why, but that's the way it is. Each stage of this strategy will move the western powers ever closer to the final goal--that of attacking Iran. Any attack will likely not be the same as the war waged on Iraq, as that has been a disaster. Besides, the USA simply does not have the manpower to wage that type of ground war all over again. No, what is more likely is an attack on strategic and/or nuclear sites--a targeted aerial bombardment to "neutralise" Iran's nascent nuclear industry. The world will cheer. Another potential threat to world peace will have been taken out. Another victory in the war on terror! Or . . . it could be a fatal conceit. It could trigger a war between Israel and Iran. It could be the beginning of a general Middle East conflagration. It could cause Iran to "trigger" its support base in Iraq, and lead to a general uprising against US forces in that region. It could lead to the world's first nuclear war. It could be the Armageddon that so may fundamentalist Christians believe is the essential precursor to a better world. And it could also be the catalyst that sends the global economy into a tailspin--and impacts on the entire world. Take your pick. But for the serious freedom seeker, war is an anathema. War is never a cause for celebration. As Randolph Bourne said, "War is the health of the state." War always benefits the state and its apparatus of control. Every war has strengthened the state's hand in public affairs and private life. And an ever-more powerful state is NEVER in the interest of the freedom seeker. So, in 2006, keep your wits about you. Keep your eyes open. Don't believe every word you read or are told. Seek alternative sources of information to at least provide a "second opinion." And most of all, remember that politicians DO lie. They've been caught out time and time again. Lying is the name of their game. There is simply no reason to have faith in them--and even less reason to follow them blindly into the abyss. The only possible cause for long-range optimism in all this, is that making the same mistake over and over again, and reliving (as in Groundhog Day) the "worst" day in our collective lives--in mayhem and war--could lead us to seek a "better" form of social order in the future. It could lead to a significant number of the world's people rejecting the warfare state as the optimum organisational model for a modern, progressive, free and peaceful world. I live in hope.