Panetta, Iran, and Known Knowns

I.F. Stone once quipped, “All governments are run by liars, nothing they say should be believed.”  The Secretary of Defense, then, is certainly a rather poor source to consult if one is in pursuit of the truth.  The blatant diffusion of propaganda is merely part of the gig.

This, as Donald Rumsfeld would say, is one of our known knowns—i.e., one of “the things we know we know.”  So, we really ought to expect nothing less than deception and half-truths to come from Leon Panetta.  But even with that understood, the recent bombastic imperial musings oozing like the innards of a strewn carcass from Panett’s mind still confound.

Asked to reflect on the conclusion of the Iraq War on December 16, Mr. Panetta offered the following appraisal: “As difficult as [the Iraq war] was, I think the price has been worth it, to establish a stable government in a very important region of the world.”

Putting aside the war’s $3 trillion price tag, the 4,484 Americans killed, the 30,000 more who returned injured and maimed, and the estimated one million plus Iraqis slaughtered, the most outlandish part of this claim may be that the U.S. somehow leaves behind a “stable government” in Iraq.

As a Tuesday al-Akhbar English headline declared, “Iraq in political turmoil only days after US withdrawal.”  This most recent bout of political upheaval stems from the arrest warrant issued Monday for Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi.  The warrant was issued for, among other things, Hashimi’s alleged involvement in a November 28 car bombing, which targeted Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.  Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq recently warned that Maliki was in fact “emerging as a dictator.”  The Iraqi coalition government, needless to say, teeters.

Yet it is this, Panetta tells us, that constitutes stable governance.  A true victory for the US and a “liberated” Iraq!  Although to be fair, if Panetta was speaking in the purely technical sense of the word, in which stability signifies fealty to the interests of Washington, he may very well be correct. 

But by now, though, Iraq is so passé.  After all, anyone can go to Baghdad; but only real men go to Tehran.  And as we learned with the downing of a RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone in Iran earlier this month, the “real men” in Washington are already busily charting their route to Tehran.

And though initially attempting to play coy as to whether the Iranians had indeed seized the highly prized “Beast of Kandahar” (seemingly hoping the embarrassing incident would simply melt away), the administration begrudgingly came to admit that the Iranians had indeed commandeered the drone.  Then, in what can only be described as an attempt to turn the whole incident into some sort of joke, the US simply asked for the drone to be returned.  As President Obama stated: “We’ve asked for it back.”

Asked for comment on Obama’s request for the return of the spy drone, Panetta reasoned that such a request was “appropriate,” adding “I don’t expect that will happen, but I think it’s important to make that request.”  Now, if an Iranian spy drone were to be spotted even near the territorial US we all know the response.  Before Tehran could even think of asking for its possible return the US would hurtle Iran deep into thralls of a nuclear winter.  And this, men like Panetta would assuredly tell us, would be deemed to be the “appropriate” response.

Of course, when the US is not requesting its spy gadgets back from Iran, it’s busy threatening Tehran with a nuclear attack.

In a sit down interview with CBS’s Scott Pelley this week, coming after imperial inspections in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan (the neo-con dream junket), Panetta declared that, “The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That’s a red line for us and that’s a red line, obviously, for the Israelis. If we have to do it we will deal with it.”  When Pelley began to ask, “A nuclear weapon in a Iran is…” Panetta interjected, “Unacceptable.”

The CBS interview—as blatant a propaganda spectacle as the images of Iranian generals inspecting the American Sentinel drone draped in a banner reading, “The US cannot do a damn thing”—was in its very optics a rather thinly veiled threat against Iran.  As Pelley told his audience, the interview was conducted aboard “The Doomsday Plane,” which “is the command post where he [Panetta] and the president would direct a nuclear war.”  Direct a nuclear war against exactly whom, was of course left to the discerning CBS viewer to decipher.

Now, for those not keeping track of Panetta’s recent ramblings, it was only a little over a month ago that the Defense chief was warning of the “unintended consequences” of an attack against Iran.  (Too many known unknowns, perhaps.)  But time apparently changes all.  With “stability” now assured in Iraq, it appears as if Panetta is readying to come around to the side of all those real men long transfixed on Tehran.

But can we to take all this hawkish posturing at face value?  Has Panetta truly forgotten the disastrous unintended consequences a strike against Iran would assuredly unleash?  Who knows?  Governments are indeed run by liars.  And in the end, this appears to be our only known known.

Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer living in Salem, Oregon. He may be reached at: bnschreiner@gmail.com. Read other articles by Ben.