As I witnessed the crisis unfold between Britain and Iran after the Iranians intercepted the British military vessel in disputed waters, I thought of two points to raise with readers.
The first has to do with the reaction of the Bush administration. They were beside themselves in attacking the Iranians for seizing the so-called British "hostages." (By the way, the British NEVER used the term "hostages" throughout the entire crisis.) Yet only a few months ago, U.S. forces seized several Iranian diplomats in Kurdish-controlled Iraq. The Bush administration alleged that these Iranians were engaged in militarily supporting the Iraqi resistance. No proof was ever established for these claims, but more damning, both Kurdish and Iraqi government officials denounced the U.S. actions and held that the Iranians were legitimately in Kurdish-controlled Iraq. The Bush administration ignored the position of their own allies and refuses to release the Iranians.
Thus, we must ask, who is engaged in hostage taking?
The second issue concerns the reaction of the British public to the crisis. Despite the combined Bush administration/U.S. media fanning of the flames, the British public — at least as of this writing — did not get into a jingoistic/revenge mode. I had noticed this and was not sure what to make of it until I listened to a commentator note that the British public is so anti-Iraq war that they believe this crisis would never have transpired had the British not joined the United States in the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Fascinating, I thought. Would the U.S. public have been as equally sophisticated or would it have caved into right wing, militaristic calls for retaliation, under the same circumstances?
Despite the significant opposition to the Iraq war within the United States (more than half of the U.S. public), the reality is that time and again demagoguery has been successfully used to stir up support for aggressive foreign policies. Part of this is rooted in the lack of a balanced media, and the ability of the U.S. public to be swayed by misinformation.
Part of it, however, is related to a culture in the United States that has developed since the settler days — many of us assume that truth always rests with the United States. Usually, well after a crisis has been resolved, we in the United States find out that there has been more than met the eye, whether it was the alleged Tonkin Gulf incident in 1964, the Indonesian coup and massacre of 1965, the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965…
Why is it that the list can go on and on no matter what year I start with?
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a long-time labor and international writer and activist.