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An interview by Kourosh Ziabari
Dave Lindorff: Obama will not launch a war against Iran

Award-winning U.S. investigative journalist Dave Lindorff said in an interview with Tehran Times that the American people are deceived by the government about the alleged threats jeopardizing the States’ security and also about the size of military budget.

13 January 2013

“When the 9/11 attacks happened, most school districts in the country cancelled all class trips to museums, parks, etc., for fear that terrorists would be attacking school buses… I think Americans would like to see spending on the military cut, and polls show a majority would like the wars ended and troops pulled back to the U.S. from abroad, but it’s not high on their list of concerns. In part they are lied to about the size of the military budget, which they think is much smaller.”

Dave Lindorff is a regular contributor to Counter Punch, The Nation, Businessweek and currently runs the “This Can’t Be Happening” online journal. Lindorff has won two Project Censored awards in 2004 and 2011 and his writings on the U.S. military expeditions and the War on Terror are widely read around the world.

What follows is the text of the interview.

Q: In one of your recent articles, you criticized Washington for imposing unilateral sanctions against Iran which block the access by millions of Iranian patients to medicine needed for the curing of their chronic diseases. How does the U.S. government really justify these inhumane sanctions? What’s the general attitude of the American public toward these sanctions?

A: The U.S. does not justify this kind of thing. It simply doesn’t acknowledge it. The admission by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that U.S. sanctions caused the untimely deaths of some 500,000 children in Iraq was an exception, caused by her being asked the question by a reporter on a live program. As for the American people, they mostly don’t know what is happening in their name, and for many who learn of this, while perhaps it upsets them a little, it is seen as “necessary” because Iran is portrayed rather absurdly as a “dangerous” enemy of the U.S.

Q: In your article “Democracies Don’t Start Wars, But Fake Democracies Sure Do,” you have pointed at the numerous military expeditions of the United States in the recent decade. The U.S. government sees itself capable and righteous in launching these attacks, but what about the American people? Do they share the same feeling with the government or are really opposed to their government’s militarism?

A: Again, I’m sorry to say that most Americans, if they think about America’s outsized expenditure on war and the military, just assume it is necessary. The propaganda that has been warning about the dangers of Islamic terrorism has been so pervasive that many people are actually scared that they will someday be victims of a terror attack. It’s crazy. When the 9/11 attacks happened, most school districts in the country cancelled all class trips to museums, parks, etc., for fear that terrorists would be attacking school buses! For a whole year, our school district in my town had no school trips! I think Americans would like to see spending on the military cut, and polls show a majority would like the wars ended and troops pulled back to the U.S. from abroad, but it’s not high on their list of concerns. In part they are lied to about the size of the military budget, which they think is much smaller.

Q: It’s more than 7 years that the United States and Israel are repeating the threats that they will be launching a military strike on Iran shortly. Do they really have the intention and capability of attacking Iran? What will be the consequences of such a war for Israel and the United States?

A: I wish I knew the answer to that. I’m sure Israel would love to bomb Iran, but its leaders, and especially its military and intelligence leaders, know that would be a disaster and also not very effective, unless the U.S. were part of the attack. I do not believe that Obama wants such an attack, but he is being sorely pressed by the right-wing Zionist lobby, specifically AIPAC. I would guess an attack would not happen.

Q: There are people like Prof. Bruce Ackerman who have warned that issuing threats of a possible military strike against Iran or the very act of attacking the country when there’s no perceived imminent threat on its side is an act of aggression and violates the UN Charter. The Security Council has never condemned Israel’s war rhetoric. Why is it so?

A: The U.S. is immune from charges of War crimes, because it is too powerful. It has a veto in the UN Security Council, and would be backed in any case by Britain and France and Germany, so I don’t see how there could ever be those kinds of charges brought. Only the losers in conflicts have ever been brought up on war crimes charges.

Q: Leon Panetta and many other high-ranking officials in the Obama administration and Israeli regime have admitted that there’s no hard evidence confirming that Iran is after developing nuclear weapons. So what are all these hostilities and animosities, economic sanctions, assassinations of nuclear scientists and war threats for?

A: There is obviously a fear that Iran will at some point have the material and the know-how to secretly or suddenly produce a bomb. I don’t believe anyone in a real position of authority in the U.S., and maybe even in Israel, believes that Iran would use such a weapon if it got it. What they fear is that Israel will lose its monopoly on nuclear weapons in the Middle East, and that it could no longer bully its way around in the region.

Q: The U.S. Presidential elections have just taken place. A big question which many people pose is that why the independent candidates of the presidential elections never receive that public attention, media coverage and funding which the Democrat and Republican nominees benefit from? Is there something wrong with the U.S. electoral system, or something else?

A: The simple answer is yes. The whole system is structured to neutralize and diminish third parties. The standard for getting public funding is that a party has to have received 5% of the vote in the prior election, and that is hard to do if you have no funding, so it rarely happens. When it has, it has been kind of fake “parties” structured around a candidate, i.e. Ralph Nader, Rep. Anderson, George Wallace, Ross Perot, etc., so when the candidate leaves the scene, the “party” withers away. Televised national debates, which would allow third party candidates to become known, are fun by the two main parties, and they make rules that keep third party candidates out. State election boards are also dominated by the two main parties, and they set unreasonable requirements for getting a candidate or a party’s slate of candidates listed on the ballot. It’s all a rigged game to keep it just between the two main parties.

Q: Your comparison of the Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler and former U.S. President George W. Bush in a 2003 article received widespread attention and the late Counterpunch editor Alexander Cockburn defended your viewpoint Would you please give us an insight of what similarities you see between Hitler and Bush? Why did Mr. Cockburn come to support you after you wrote that famous article?

A: I don’t believe GW Bush is like Hitler. He certainly didn’t try to send millions of Americans to concentration camps and kill them, but he did start two wars, and he, together with Vice President Dick Cheney, did push through rules that undermined legal protections against arrest without charge, indefinite detention, torture, and extra-judicial execution, as well as setting up a vast network of domestic spies and surveillance. In these ways he was a lot like Hitler. He just didn’t get to go as far. And as I wrote, he had the disadvantage of not being the mesmerizing orator that Hitler was! Alex defended me because he thought I was largely right, and he was a man of great courage, who is sorely missed.

Q: And finally; in several articles, you called President Obama and his predecessor “war criminals” for waging wars and planning for starting new wars. Is it practically possible to hold these war criminals accountable for their actions? Nearly all the international organizations are either run by the U.S. or spearheaded by the U.S. allies. So, how should one administer justice on them?

A: The only hope would be for some country to be brave enough to allow these men to be arrested when they travel abroad, and to risk the wrath of the U.S. government. Clearly a country like Germany, or Japan, or even maybe Brazil, could do this, and stand up to the U.S., but I really don’t see it happening. As I said, generally, only the losers in conflicts have their leaders charged and tried for war crimes. Winners get a free pass. Even when low-level people get charged with war crimes on the winning side, as was the case with Lt. Calley in the My Lai massacre, there is no real punishment. His imprisonment was reduced by President Nixon first to house arrest, and then even that was waived, though he had ordered the senseless slaughter of perhaps 200 women, babies and old people.

Kourosh Ziabari - January 12, 2013
Journalist, writer and media correspondent