Quotes of the Day:
"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." -- H.L. Mencken
"How do wars start? Diplomats lie to reporters and then believe what they read in the newspapers." -- Karl Krause
Sometimes I think the world is run by crazy people, and that perhaps the classic movie "Dr. Strangelove" was really a historical documentary.
President Merkin Muffley: But this is absolute madness, Ambassador! Why should you build such a thing?
Ambassador de Sadesky: There were those of us who fought against it, but in the end we could not keep up with the expense involved in the arms race, the space race, and the peace race. At the same time our people grumbled for more nylons and washing machines. Our doomsday scheme cost us just a small fraction of what we had been spending on defense in a single year. The deciding factor was when we learned that your country was working along similar lines, and we were afraid of a doomsday gap.
President Merkin Muffley: This is preposterous. I've never approved of anything like that.
Ambassador de Sadesky: Our source was the New York Times.
Well, Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is practically the poster-child for crazy, announced his nation's intention to build ten new, huge, uranium enrichment facilities. The ambulance-chasing media eagerly reported it.
You'd have to do extra research to understand that the headlines are a hoax, but our crisis-loving politicians are exploiting the drama, shouting, "Omigod, that's PROOF the Iranians are building bombs."
Except, headlines aren't proof, and this story simply represents political posturing by the President of Iran. Here's my reasoning (based on analysis by Iranian expert Gary Sick)...
1) Ahmadinejad has little real power, but he is a valuable theatrical tool for Iran's Supreme Leader, and Iran's Revolutionary Guards, who do hold real power. Ahmadinejad's job is to keep his people frightened of the West, and the West frightened of Iran. You should take note of the fact that Iran's supposed new uranium enrichment plans were announced by Ahmadinejad and his Cabinet, and not by the Supreme National Security Council, the branch of Iran's government typically responsible for major security initiatives. This is the first clue that this announcement is more theatrical than real.
2) Ahmadinejad is calling for half-a-million centrifuges. Is this realistic? Iran has been enriching uranium for about a decade, supposedly for power plants. They are allowed to do this by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, to which they are a signatory. But Iran has managed to build fewer than 9,000 centrifuges so far, and only about half of those are able to do the kind of enrichment required for a bomb. Based on this they might be capable of building 1,000 bomb-grade centrifuges per year, at a maximum, but that still means Ahmadinejad's threat would take 500 years to complete.
3) Ahmadinejad wants the world to believe these will be huge nuclear facilities. He compared the ten proposed sites to an existing facility at Natanz, housing 54,000 centrifuges, buried under a mountain. But Natanz isn't even completed yet and the Iranians would have to build ten more of these complicated structures in order to make good on Ahmadinejad's claim. Is this realistic?
Not when you consider how long it's taking the Iranians to build smaller sites, like the one at Fardo. The Iranians have so far installed the plumbing for 3,000 centrifuges, but not a single device is in place yet. Fardo's been under construction for six years, and it isn't even scheduled for completion until 2011. So . . .
Could Iran build a Natanz-sized facility in the same time they'll take to build Fardo? Almost certainly not.
But let's assume they could build a Natanz as fast as a Fardo: If Iran took eight years each to build a facility well over ten times the size of Fardo, it would still take 80 years to reach Ahmadinejad's supposed goal.
4) Saying outlandish things is a well established pattern for loopy Ahmadinejad, but sources in the Iranian government seem to indicate that these crazy pronouncements may simply be part of a negotiating stance . . .
Ali-Akbar Salehi (Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization): "We had no plan to build many nuclear sites like Natanz, but it seems that the West do not want to comprehend Iran's message of peace . . . The West adopted an attitude toward Iran which made the Iranian government to pass the ratification on construction of ten sites similar to the Natanz enrichment facility."
Gary Sick reports on further, similar posturing: "We have also heard various Iranian commentators in the past few days... threaten that Iran would enrich their own fuel rods (though they don't have the technology to manufacture the rods)."
Threatening to do things you can't do is theatrical posing, and nothing more.
Now, I wish our president would respond to this like a sane adult, saying, "Listen folks, Ahmadinejad has a history of saying some entertaining and provocative things, but this one takes the uranium cake." He could then report the facts that I've just shared with you in this message.
But our President, and your representatives in Congress, are all politicians, just like Ahmadinejad, and all politicians play from the same Dr. Strangelove script. They all want to keep the populace alarmed so they can lead us by the nose. After all, we can't afford to have a doomsday gap, can we?
Politicians around the world, and throughout history, have constantly collaborated with each other to keep their citizens in fear, so as to win patriotic support back home. Saddam Hussein used the fear of America to control his people. Castro has done the same thing in Cuba. And American politicians have used a fear of Iraq, Cuba, Iran, and a host of other countries, past and present, to manipulate us too.
Only we can break this cycle of collaborative manipulation, by refusing to be afraid. Please send a message to Congress telling them you've already won your personal war on terror, by NOT BEING AFRAID.
You can use your personal comments to cite the Iranian bomb scare as a specific example of something that doesn't frighten you. You can cut and paste the points above to make your case. You can send your message using DownsizeDC.org's Educate the Powerful System.
Remember . . .
We were told we were crazy. Supporters dropped off. We even received a death threat. But we stuck by our prediction. So we have no fear in asserting that the main thing you have to fear from Iran, for now, is the fear-mongering by politicians on both sides. Do not be manipulated. Do not be afraid.
And do not let your politicians act afraid on your behalf.