We Should Recall Middle East History as War Clouds Gather over Iran

Cape Times (South Africa), February 28, 2007 | Go to article overview

We Should Recall Middle East History as War Clouds Gather over Iran


BYLINE: Shamil Jeppie

In his article in the Cape Times (February 19, "All this talk of a US attack on Iran carries a distinct sense of deja vu"), Professor Milton Shain appears to be reporting on an imminent US-Israeli war on Iran.

He does not merely report, he selects, distorts and crafts a story in which one cannot but conclude that he supports and advocates such a war. He presents none of the arguments against war. His article reads like American neo-conservative propaganda in preparation for the war on Iraq four years ago.

We are seeing this type of "journalism" leaking out daily and more will follow, coming up with new "evidence" of why Iran should be attacked. He supported the war on Iraq and now brings his "expertise" to prepare us for another war.

There are a number of issues he raises in his article. I'll focus on three only.

Firstly, he neglects to remind readers of the illegality of the American-British war on Iraq. He proceeds as if the invasion of Iraq had any legitimacy in international law, had a UN mandate, or the grounds for the war - nuclear weapons in Iraq - were confirmed.

The Bush and Blair administrations simply faked evidence and lied repeatedly to the world in order to invade Iraq. Later, they announced their delusions about imposing democracy in the Middle East. That is, happily, no longer heard. Indeed, Iraq is going through conditions of civil war and still the White House can proclaim its success there. (The ever-improving situation in Afghanistan after all the years of occupation does not merit mention by Shain.)

Secondly, Shain argues that the American occupation was successful in introducing "popular sovereignty" to Iraq. On what planet does he live? Iraq, since the invasion, is an example of a colonial occupation. He needs to tell us where in the world a colonial regime is at the same time a government of the people. If he means to say that there were elections, then he confuses that with sovereignty.

Even though Iraq now has a new president, prime minister and a national assembly, this does not amount to "popular sovereignty". (The US Ambassador inside the Green Zone regularly pulls the country's apparently independent rulers into line, especially on matters of policing, defence and foreign affairs.)

Despite the fracturing of the country, if there is a power that actually asserts "sovereignty" in Iraq, then the Americans have that role and they perform that role in a way that is unaccountable, corrupt and, of course, extremely violent.

Thirdly, Shain is only concerned with presenting an American and Israeli interpretation of the Middle East. He cites approvingly the remarks of Bernard Lewis, a well-known pro-American and Zionist scholar whom he calls the "doyen of Islamic studies"! (If one were to ask senior specialists in any field of "Islamic studies", all of them would be hard-pressed to mention any serious historical or literary scholarship by Lewis in the past few decades.)

Although he does not mention it, Shain reproduces almost verbatim parts of an article by Lewis in the Wall Street Journal (August 8, 2006) in which he verged on predicting that Iran could engage in an act of devastating aggression on August 22, 2006.

Lewis is a self-important Orientalist whose last scholarly research was possibly around 1960 in a book on Turkey. Furthermore, he has lent his talents to push highly questionable arguments in support of various American agendas in the Middle East. …

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We Should Recall Middle East History as War Clouds Gather over Iran
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