Netanyahu: The Bibi Who Cried Wolf?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s constant, dire warnings about Iran convey one quality in great abundance:  Sheer confidence.  With an air of omniscience, he tells us precisely what the Iranians are thinking, planning and doing—even what they will do in the future.

English: Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu (Credit: Wikipedia)

This is, however, the same man who—with every bit as much outward certainty–-declared that Saddam Hussein was “feverishly” developing nuclear weapons as he urged the United States on to an invasion that proved wholly unjustified. While Netanyahu’s assertions about Iran’s nuclear program are grave, it could be the gravest of errors to assume that what he’s saying is true.

Netanyahu in 2002: “No Question” Iraq Pursuing Atomic Bombs

On September 12, 2002, Netanyahu testified at a U.S. House of Representatives hearing titled, “Conflict with Iraq: An Israeli Perspective.”  At the time, “conflict with Iraq” wasn’t underway; rather, it was being contemplated—and aggressively pushed by the Bush administration, Netanyahu and others.

Scanning his testimony, we find little to distinguish what Netanyahu told us about Iraq in 2002 from what he tells us about Iran in 2012:

  • “There is no question whatsoever that Saddam is seeking and is working and is advancing towards the development of nuclear weapons—no question whatsoever.”
  • Saddam is hell-bent on achieving atomic bombs, atomic capabilities, as soon as he can.”
  • “Every indication we have is that (Saddam) is…pursuing with abandon, pursuing with every ounce of effort, the establishment of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.  If anyone makes an opposite assumption…that is simply not an objective assessment of what has happened.”
  • “…this is not a hypothesis. It is a fact.  Iraq, Iran and Libya are racing to develop nuclear weapons.”
  • “Mr Kucinich…it is simply not reflecting the reality to assume that Saddam isn’t feverishly working to develop nuclear weapons, as we speak.”

We now know his emphatic claims were emphatically wrong.  That knowledge came at a terrible price—in American and Iraqi lives and limbs, and in more than $800 billion of U.S. taxpayer money…and counting. If Netanyahu was so categorically wrong about Iraq, is it wise to put faith in his claims about Iran?

Evaluating Today’s Claims About Iran

It wouldn’t be equitable to evoke the fable of The Boy Who Cried Wolf without acknowledging that, while the Aesop character’s first cries of “wolf” were false, his final one was not.  Ignoring his pleas, the villagers’ inaction allowed a very real wolf to slaughter the boy’s flock of sheep. With that in mind, and given what’s at stake, we have a duty to carefully examine warnings about Iran now presented by Netanyahu and others.

Whether said explicitly or not, these justifications for pre-emptive war typically have three underlying tenets:

  1. Iran has decided to build a nuclear weapon.
  2. Iran is genocidal.
  3. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it will use them regardless of the consequences to itself.

Let’s examine each one separately.  As we do, bear this in mind:  The question isn’t whether Iran’s public rhetoric is offensive or its human rights record highly defective—those factors alone wouldn’t be sufficient to wage war.  If they were, we’d be bombing or invading much of the world.

Has Iran decided to build a nuclear weapon?

While 84 percent of Americans think Iran is already building nuclear weapons, the answer is actually no, according to:

  • U.S. intelligence.  American intelligence still adheres to its finding in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran:  “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”
  • Israeli intelligence.  Earlier this year, the Associated Press reported that, according to senior Israeli officials, “Israeli has come around to the U.S. view that no final decision to build a bomb has been made by Iran.”
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency.  The IAEA, which inspects the nuclear operations of Iran and other countries that have signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, says it continues to confirm nuclear material isn’t being diverted to military use.  (It hedges, however, noting it can’t assure “the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activity.”  That is, it can’t prove a negative.)

While those who study Iran closest agree it isn’t developing a nuclear weapon today, some are concerned that its peaceful nuclear program could turn military, noting that the further its peaceful program advances, the faster Iran could pivot into military use.

Iranian Scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, Killed in January 2012 Car-Bombing Attributed to Israel and the MEK Terrorist Group (AP Photo)

However, those advocating the reinforcement of “crippling” sanctions, additional Israeli-sponsored terrorist assassinations of civilian scientists or unprovoked military attacks to send Iran “back to the Stone Age” should consider the possibility that their approach makes it more likely Iran will decide it needs nuclear weapons—as a deterrent…particularly when you remember:

  • Iran has already seen the United States execute “regime change” invasions and decade-long occupations of both its eastern and western neighbors.
  • The United States and Great Britain overthrew Iran’s own democratically elected leader in 1953 to replace him with a West-friendly tyrant.

Are Iran’s leaders bent on genocide?

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is widely quoted as declaring “Israel must be wiped off the face of the map.”   Time and time again, these words are offered as proof of genocidal intent, repeated not only by Netanyahu but by politicians, reporters, commentators and everyday citizens—the trouble is, he never said them.

What he did say, as he in turn quoted the Ayatollah Khomeni, was, “The Imam (Khomeni) said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” As Arash Norouzi explains in a detailed analysis of the sentence and its context, Ahmadinejad was comparing the Israeli “regime” with other once-powerful regimes that had fallen, including the Soviet Union.

In other words, he wasn’t calling for the annihilation of a population, but for the dismantling of a governing entity. That’s highly antagonistic language, to be sure, but it’s not genocidal—any more than Ronald Reagan’s assertion that “freedom and democracy will leave Marxism and Leninism on the ash heap of history” was a pledge to incinerate the Soviet, Chinese or Cuban people.

Iran’s leaders have made countless more anti-Israel statements, but when examined closely—understanding that Iran does not officially recognize the government of Israel, claims it was wrongly created and says it denies the rights of Palestinians—these statements likewise seem focused on the Israeli government and not Jews as a people.  (The Anti-Defamation League maintains a catalogue of Ahmadinejad’s most provocative lines; review them for yourself in that light.)

Anti-Zionist Jews of the Neturei Karta

Ahmadinejad’s inflammatory statements are also awash with contempt for “Zionists,” yet, significantly,  not “Jews.”   There is a distinction: “Zionism” refers to the nationalist movement which championed the creation of the Jewish nation-state of Israel.  Underscoring that distinction, there are Jewish anti-Zionists who embrace Judaism but actively oppose the concept of the modern country of Israel.

Iranian leaders’ opposition to the formation and perpetuation of a government or country may be objectionable, but is it genocidal?  Those who accuse Iran of genocidal intent must reconcile the fact that Iran has the second-largest Jewish population in the Middle East—behind only Israel itself—living peacefully and openlypraying in synagogues and even operating Hebrew schools and hospitals …and the fact that the Ayatollah Khomeni, after the 1979 revolution, issued a fatwa prohibiting the harassment of Jews and other religious minorities.

If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, would it use them regardless of the consequences to itself?

This question might be rephrased another way:  Are Iran’s leaders rational and concerned with self-preservation, or are they impulsive and suicidal?  After all, a nuclear strike executed by Iran or by terrorists it equipped would invite Iran’s own devastation.

Some argue that religious fervor makes Iran’s leaders indifferent to their own nuclear destruction—a notion that first assumes a certain interpretation of Islam and further assumes religious considerations outweigh Iranian leaders’ interest in perpetuating their own power and privilege.  Even assuming those things, there’s a religion-rooted flaw in the hypothesis:  In 2005, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, issued a fatwa declaring, per an Iranian government statement at the time, “that the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons.”

Let’s turn again to those who have observed Iran most closely:

  • “I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people.”  Israeli Defense Forces Chief Benny Gantz.
  • “We are of the opinion that the Iranian regime is a rational actor.  They act and behave as a rational nation-state.” U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey.
  • “The regime is a very rational regime.  There is no doubt they are considering all the implications of their actions.”  Former Israeli Mossad Chief Meir Dagan.
  • “Iran poses a serious threat but not an existential one.”  Former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz.
  • “We continue to judge that Iran’s nuclear decision-making is guided by a cost-benefit approach.” U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
  • “Iran is unlikely to initiate or provoke a conflict.” U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency Director Ron Burgess.

Finally, while proponents of military action against Iran may find fault with many Iranian government actions and policies, can they point to a single one that demonstrates an impulsive, reckless, suicidal or self-destructive tendency?

A Citizen’s Duty: Focus on Facts, Question Everything

The case for preemptive war against Iran withers under close scrutiny, revealing that the common caricature of Iran—as a maniacal, fanatical nation bent on nuclear genocide—cannot be substantiated.

If the United States is to act justly and in a way that advances our nation’s true best interest and avoids shedding blood in vain, our policies must be rooted not in misinformed passion, but an objective evaluation of the facts. Regrettably, when it comes to Iran, its nuclear program and its implications for global security, the American public operates in a thick fog of myth and misunderstanding—so much so, that when the truth is shared, it sounds to many like a falsehood…or perversely, a sign of disloyalty.

A truly loyal American, however, relentlessly seeks what’s best for the United States.  Doing so requires an unwavering dedication to learning the truth, and a never-ending vigilance against misinformation that flows both from honest mistakes and from purposeful manipulation by those advancing their own, separate interests.

If you found this enlightening, share it to enlighten others. 

20 Responses to Netanyahu: The Bibi Who Cried Wolf?

  1. trublu54 says:

    Thank you. This article and your links have greatly helped my own research on the subject.

    • LibertyMcG says:

      Thanks, trublu54…I’m happy to hear it was appreciated and useful in your own work, and I look forward to seeing your take on this and other topics.

      • trublu54 says:

        I have to thank you now for showing me a good example of how to answer hostile comments. Dr. Paul has taught me a great deal about putting aside pettiness and ignoring insults, but I’m still learning. It was good to see you respond to the51percent with respect and intelligence. Keep up the good work! People are watching.

  2. the51percent says:

    “The American public operates in a thick fog of myth and misunderstanding—so much so, that when the truth is shared, it sounds to many like a falsehood…or perversely, a sign of disloyalty.”

    That “thick fog” that operates over the American Public… Are you talking about the idiots that belong to the Socialist Democrats?

    Also, who spreads this information? MSM lapdogs and liberal communists like yourself that want to distort the facts?

    Israel has had nuclear strike capability for decades now so my question is: When has Israel ever stated that they wanted to destroy any State? Not just Arab… but any State for that matter?

    Israel is defending their borders and recognizes a potential threat when they see one.

    Grow up.

    • LibertyMcG says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. If you think the U.S. sets a good example in international politics, then you should encourage Israel to follow that example and admit it has a nuclear weapons program (it never has). Israel demands transparency from its neighbors but doesn’t provide that transparency itself.

      I was surprised you would associate my position with communism, liberalism or socialism, which seem to have little to do with the topic at hand. If you look around LibertyMcG.com, you’ll see I’ve opposed the income tax, government education spending, Obamacare, stimulus programs, Keynesian economics and forced-unionization laws. I can’t imagine a set of stances that are farther from communism, liberalism or socialism.

      I believe the confusion lies in your interpretation of conservatism as it relates to foreign policy. For much of the 20th century, it was the liberals who championed an active, interventionist foreign policy bent on remaking the globe in America’s image (think FDR, Kennedy, Johnson). Similar thinking among “neo-conservatives” is a relatively recent (and disastrous) development. Military adventurism is not a traditional conservative ideal, and I don’t know how else to characterize our $800 billion fiasco in Iraq and whatever the neo-conservatives are drawing up for Iran.

      Since I once embraced those policies myself, however, I don’t fault you in the least. If, like me, you revere the principles of our founding fathers, I encourage you to read their thoughts on foreign policy. Jefferson famously encouraged “Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.”

      Washington, in his farewell address, warned against relationships like the one we have with Israel: “A passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favourite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter.”

      • the51percent says:

        Answer my question, does Israel call for the destruction of Iran or any state for that matter? It is yes or no? Yes or no seems to be a problem with many people nowadays.

        Again, what nation state has Israel ever wanted destroyed? You speak in myths and give me nothing but rhetoric in regards to this post. Perhaps you should make sure that your posts reflect the rest of your posts? I would.

      • LibertyMcG says:

        Your question appeared rhetorical. No, I’m not aware of them doing so. Israeli is, however, threatening a so-called “pre-emptive” (unprovoked) war on Iran (which, unlike Israel, has signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and is said by U.S. officials to have partnered with the terrorist MEK organization to assassinate Iranian civilians. Iran hasn’t invaded another country for centuries and, despite misinformation, hasn’t threatened to physically destroy Israel. But that’s certainly not to say they’re the “good guys.” As articulated in my post, however, the question is whether war is justified.

        My stance on Iran is consistent with the rest of my posts in its respect for the governing policies recommended by our founders—both foreign and domestic.

    • FreePussyRiot says:

      Hey, 51%, you forgot to call Liberty McG an anti-Semite and to deploy Reductio ad Hitlerum! I also note that you failed to refute a single fact that Liberty McG asserted in his post. Instead you set up a classic straw man by demanding to know whether Israel has ever “stated that they wanted to destroy any State.” Sorry, 51, you’re the apparent Lefty here, liberally employing tactics used by Lefties the world over, setting up straw men and engaging in ad hominem attacks (“grow up”) because you’re unable to win the argument through rational discourse.

      • the51percent says:

        I asked if Israel ever threatened the detruction of another Nation State? It was yes or know and I got my answer.

        I know yes and no questions can be tough for those that have no conviction… hence, I’ll ask you the same question: Has Israel ever stated that it wants to destroy another nation state?

        Yes or No?

        Peace.

    • Clodia Metelli says:

      I thought your question was rhetorical or something. The answer is yes. Israel, right here and now, is wanting to destroy Iran, LibMc’s article gave you quotes from Bibi on his desire to destroy Iraq. Just because they conscript the big dumb US to do their bidding doesn’t make their threats any less disgusting. They also go on regular scheduled bombing raids of Lebanon and Palestine with cluster bombs, white phosphorus weapons, and conventional arms to destroy any competing businesses and moral, and to get out some of that pent-up anger.

      But it seems their main export is flourishing – pity. You are all stocked up.

      Anymore ridiculous questions?

      Great Article LibMc!!

  3. Kevin McGlinchey says:

    Bravo, LibertyMcG.

  4. Luke Richard says:

    51percent. Israel has – in the past few decades – attacked Syria, Iraq and Lebanon (on several occasions)
    Israel also continues to deny justice and liberty to millions of Palestinians who either live under seige or occupation.

  5. saeed says:

    I’m Iranian.
    I’m 28 years old. I’m expert in my job. I marriage 3 mounts before. It’s the time that I should be happy and make my own feature. Our economy crushed because of us sanctions. Living in Iran have become harder and harder.
    You all are living in free world but the roulette wheel of chance force me to being middle of this funny struggle between some stupid governments of Iran , Us and Israel.
    We are the nation that don’t attack any country in past 200 years. We have the great history of about 2500 years.
    Please Help us. i’m not guilty about nuclear and terrorists. my opinion is like you.
    I want to live in peace .

    • LibertyMcG says:

      Saeed, I am very sorry that you and your fellow Iranian citizens are suffering under economic sanctions, and appreciate you sharing your personal perspective. While we are a minority, there are many here who are trying to educate our fellow citizens and elected leaders so we might guide our country toward a more just and effective foreign policy. I wrote this blog entry in hope that it would enlighten others about what’s happening between the U.S., Israel and Iran and in the hope that they will share it with others.

    • Clodia Metelli says:

      Dear Saeed,
      I am so very sorry for what the Western Gov’ts are doing to you. I feel so helpless. I also wrote an article which I sent out to all I know.

      http://www.dailypaul.com/257455/iranian-holodomor

      There are many here in the US that are sad and disgusted with what our government does in our name. We are as helpless as you in changing them. We are not the ‘democracy’ they try to convince us of. Our government is just good at lying so most believe we, as individuals, can make a difference.

      I will continue researching your plight and try to bring awareness whenever possible.

      I want us all to live in peace too.

    • V says:

      Saeed. I am so sorry. I love America but our government has been hijacked by international bankers. There are only a couple million of us Americans who understand this. What can we do to help you? I would like to write back and forth with you. Please email me at Prez22@aol.com.

  6. Pingback: Plea from Saeed in Iran: "Please help us" : Ron Paul Abilene

  7. doca23 says:

    LibertyMCG, I would love to hear your views on the syrian conflict, especially if it is as clear and concise as your previous posts.
    my views are that the whole thing seems so scripted, almost like Libya part two..
    (evil dictator murdering innocent protesters, mass atrocities… then out of the blue those peaceful protesters turning into a full fledged army with their own flag, car bombs, mixed nationalities, and a full blown civil war.) Can we predict the next step? (no fly zone, nato/US bombing, islamist siege of damascus, and puppet government installation).

    there is also huge media bias with easily publishing anything “activists” say, yet discrediting
    government sources immediately. Also very selective, no mention of Turkeys role, in harboring and supplying etc.

    The worst part of all, is that I have a feeling that we are more involved than just providing money and humanitarian aide.. just watching the presidential candidates speak about it is chilling. Romney already eager to give heavy weapons, and Obama doesn’t seem to have learned his lesson with what happend in Libya.

    In all I have no simpathy for Bashar al-assad but simply asking questions about this whole ordeal has led me to find my own information and questions. Contradictions everywhere, (our great allys are saudi arabia, yet we oppose a moderate country). and many inconsistencies as well.

    thx

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