Rotten to the Coren
by Michael Tennant
by Michael Tennant
"It is surely obvious to anybody with even a basic understanding of history, politics and the nature of fascism that something revolutionary has to be done within months — if not weeks — if we are to preserve world peace," writes Michael Coren in the Toronto Sun.
How does Coren intend to "preserve world peace," you ask? He answers: "Put boldly and simply, we have to drop a nuclear bomb on Iran."
Yes, my friends, instigating a war with nukes against a country that has not done any harm to either Canada or the United States is now, in certain quarters, the preferred method of "preserv[ing] world peace." This is, as you might have noticed, akin to stamping out smoking by forcing a lit Marlboro into the mouth of every teenager, and will prove just as effective at achieving its stated objective.
(I am indebted to Jim Quinn, Pittsburgh talk radio host, for bringing this to my attention, preceding it with a parody of the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann" entitled "Bomb Iran." Quinn, being a modern-day, war-loving conservative, is, of course, totally in agreement with Coren.)
The first question any observant person might ask Coren is this: Exactly what "world peace" are you trying to "preserve"? There's war all over the place, and in two countries it was started by the U.S. explicitly for the purposes of bringing about world peace, yet there is still war in those two countries years later, with no end in sight. Meanwhile, wars continue to crop up in the very part of the world that Uncle Sam's wars were supposed to pacify. (See, for example, the recent and ongoing dust-up in Lebanon.)
Then we have the "fascism" canard, a method of stifling debate on a subject by labeling the enemy du jour a Nazi and thus, by implication, anyone who opposes bombing the heck out of the enemy's country a Nazi sympathizer. In fact, fascism, and its cousins Islamofascism and Islamic fascism, are extremely popular among the nuke-'em-all-and-let-Allah-sort-'em-out crowd. That they bear no resemblance to reality is irrelevant. (See Eric Margolis's and Justin Raimondo's takes on the subject.) They serve the purpose of turning, in the minds of the public, a loosely-knit group of individual troublemakers into the next Third Reich, thus generating fear among the citizenry and paving the way for war fever.
Coren then attempts to moderate his statement that "we" absolutely, positively must nuke Iran. He doesn't want to unleash "full-scale thermo-nuclear war on the Persian people" — though one gets the impression that he really wouldn't have any problem with doing this — but merely to engage in "limited and tactical use of nuclear weapons to destroy Iran's military facilities and its potential nuclear arsenal" (emphasis mine). After all, writes Coren, in full British imperialist/Israeli general mode, force is "the only response that [the Iranian government] will understand." He repeats this later in the column, arguing that "Iran and its allies seem only to listen to power and threat."
What of the countless innocent people who will die or be maimed or poisoned by radiation as a result of Coren's preferred approach? It's a "tragedy," says Coren, "that innocent people will die." Fortunately, the number who will die is "not many," he continues. "Most important," Coren writes, "a limited nuclear attack on Iran will save thousands if not millions of lives." "Better limited pain now than universal suffering in five years," he later adds. It's the old, familiar utilitarian argument: We must undertake a small evil now to prevent a greater evil in the future.
Let's test out Coren's argument in a more conventional context. Suppose a psychiatrist has determined that, in his opinion, a teenage boy in Coren's neighborhood may, within five years, become a serial killer. The boy, naturally enough, refuses to surrender to police in advance of having committed or even planned a crime. Would it then be proper for the military to fly in and drop a bomb on the house in which the boy lives? Certainly it would eliminate the threat that the boy would kill dozens of people in a few years. Certainly also it would kill or injure many other innocents in the neighborhood, possibly even Coren and his family. Do you suppose Coren would support such an approach? After all, it would potentially prevent the deaths of many more in the future at the hands of a boy who might or might not become a serial killer. Could the government really afford to wait for the boy to start murdering people before taking action? Isn't the loss of the lives of a few worth it to save the many?
Furthermore, Coren's argument that thousands or millions will be saved rests on two unproven and unprovable assumptions.
The first assumption is that the Iranian government is seeking to build nuclear weapons. It would not be surprising if they were, given that they are surrounded by nuclear powers, not all of which are particularly friendly, and given that they know that the U.S. only undertakes "regime change" in countries that can't fight back.
Hunches and educated guesses, however, are not proof. What we know for sure is that Iran is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and under that treaty has a right to develop nuclear power as long as it allows unimpeded inspections of its facilities. We also know that Iran has cooperated and then some, even going so far as to suspend uranium enrichment voluntarily for a time to prove its good intentions. (See Gordon Prather's columns for a thorough treatment of the subject.) We also know that the 2005 National Intelligence Estimate concluded "that Iran is still as many as 10 years away from being able to build a nuclear weapon and that such a weapon is not an inevitable consequence of its present uranium enrichment program," as Gareth Porter describes it. In any event, Coren is relying on other intelligence and guesswork to support his case that Iran will have a nuke within five years; and if the Iraq debacle has taught us anything, it is that this is a very shaky foundation on which to build a case for war.
The second assumption Coren makes is that once Tehran succeeds in building nuclear weapons, it will use them offensively. The "basic understanding of history" which Coren cites in his opening paragraph hardly bears out this contention. The "good guys" in his war are the only ones ever to nuke anyone. All others have used their nukes solely as a deterrent. There is no reason to believe that the Iranians would be any different in this regard.
Coren then cites a long list of weapons the Iranians have or are allegedly attempting to develop or acquire, which apparently is supposed to justify his desired raining of death and destruction upon them. If that is so, however, Coren has just made an even better case for the Iranians to bomb the U.S. immediately, for our government possesses far more, and far deadlier, weapons than the Iranians do or will, and our president and his administration are continually threatening Iran with war.
Coren's next argument is that the Iranian president is a bad guy who "controls a brutal police state, finances international terror and provokes bloody wars in foreign countries." Once again he has made the case for Iran to attack America. George W. Bush has presided over Abu Ghraib, the prison at Guantanamo Bay, the rendering of prisoners to foreign governments for torture, the PATRIOT Act, warrantless wiretapping of telephone calls, and sundry other usurpations of Americans' liberties. Many members of his administration, as part of previous administrations, financed Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. The administration is currently financing (or at least permitting the Israelis to finance) Kurdish terrorism against Turkey and Iran and is also backing the Mujahedin e-Khalq, a terrorist group that launches attacks on Iran. Bush has, in addition, launched two "bloody wars in foreign countries" which have claimed tens of thousands of lives. Surely Iran has at least as good a case for bombing the U.S. as the U.S. has for bombing Iran.
Having thus laid out his flimsy, heartless case for nuking Iran and killing "not many" innocent people, Coren then lays into his attackers, the "usual suspects," with the requisite labels: "the Marxists, the fellow travelers and the fifth columnists," which is to say, left-wing extremists, terrorist sympathizers, and traitors. Then he adds an interesting twist, referring to some of the opponents as the "post-Christian churches," by which he means mainline, liberal denominations. Apparently only left-wing fanatics who don't believe a word of the Bible could take to heart such verses as "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13) and "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" (Matthew 5:9). Thus are such believers as Lew Rockwell, Pat Buchanan, Chuck Baldwin, and Laurence Vance — not to mention yours truly, who will gladly stack his very conservative Christian credentials up against Coren's any day — consigned to the heap of post-Christianity if they fail to line up sufficiently behind the mass murder of foreigners.
Finally, Coren drags out the old Munich-in-1938 (or is it '39?) routine to tar anyone who disagrees as an appeaser of the new Hitler. This is, of course, merely a variant on the fascism canard described earlier. Suffice it to say that it's basically the same as the left's tactic of crying, "Racist!" whenever someone suggests that perhaps, say, affirmative action isn't such a hot idea. It's a fast way to shut down debate without requiring any thought on the part of the appeasement-slinger. As far as the warmongers are concerned, the designated enemy-of-the-week is always the next Hitler, and anyone who expresses any doubts about waging total war on the designated enemy's country is the next Neville Chamberlain. This one is fast wearing out its usefulness, much as "Wolf! Wolf!" wore out its usefulness for the boy in the fable.
Warmongers like Coren could probably retire now and just recycle their old columns for new money. Change the last letter of Iran to a q in this column and replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with Saddam Hussein, and this could have been written 3, 4, or even 16 years ago. When it comes time to drum up war against Syria, just make a few minor adjustments, and you've got your Bashar-Assad-is-the-next-Hitler-and-Syria-must-be-nuked-and-not-appeased column. Like vampires, Coren and his ilk are constantly thirsting for new blood, as long as it's the blood of swarthy foreigners. Let's hope Americans and Canadians aren't batty enough to follow their advice yet again.
September 7, 2006
Michael Tennant [send him mail] is a software developer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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