One thing a president, or a superpower, cannot afford is to be ridiculous. Nevertheless, George Bush lurched into that fatal category and true twilight of his presidency with all the discomfiture that he earned. The about-face of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), originally requested by Congress to update rudimentary knowledge of Iran, flew in the face of the fabrications, hallucinations and innuendoes pigeonholed as the “foreign policy” of a world power. Although it was finalized two months ago, the NIE was the subject of a drawn-out, agonized debate about leaks of such facts. (The Washington Post reported that the White House disclosed it to Congress and allies after sharing the report with Israel, a foreign nation.)
The NIE affirmed Iran’s consistent declarations and concurred with the IAEA’s negations of an atomic weapons program. In the same report, the NIE uncovered a massive breach of trust by America, ripped through deceptive urges for Cold War-era missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic, and busted the foundation of last two resolutions of Security Council against Iran.
The keeper of Guantanamo and purveyor of Freedom Fries, however, chose to confront this fatal instrument of humiliation -- produced by sixteen agencies of his own government -- with his “feelings” about Iran, presumably in an attempt to mimic Somali warlords. Ministers and cabinet officials are sent around the world to lecture on the need for raw, irresponsible delusions to negate tools of informed policy—who needs intelligence, research and reality? Or has the Cold War not ended inside the White House, where the goal is to sustain a phantasm and an enigmatic riddle about fictional evil villains?
In the real world, America must heed the substance and spirit of international laws. As a member state, its legal obligations under the United Nations and its Charter, the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the function of IAEA are the law of the land. These must take precedence over the personal feelings of an elected politician in charge of executing (not fabricating or interpreting) laws.
The NPT is an international mechanism of supervision and disarmament. The Treaty enshrines the right of member states to develop civilian nuclear programs and to have access to technology. No part of the NPT justifies a scientific apartheid of knowledge in basic physics. All member states are obliged to assist other members to achieve their goals (see Article IV of NPT). Thus, obstructing Iran’s efforts to develop civilian nuclear facilities (including fuel enrichment for power generation) adds up to naked aggression and an attempt to breach Iran’s peace and sovereignty. Plainly, that is against the UN Charter as well as the Algiers Declaration, in which United States promised not to meddle in Iran’s internal affairs.
In contrast, President Bush reaffirmed his personal, aggressive prejudice against the Muslim world, even though such “dangerous” Iranian atomic weapons smell of Iraq’s ‘WMD’ -- in the daydreams of dangerous foreign lobbies gaming Washington! However, the standard naturally turns on its head when dealing with North Korea, a non-democratic state that withdrew from the NPT, tested an atomic device and is now a negotiation and trading partner. The Dear Leader received a mollifying letter from President Bush the same week of the NIE release and the New York Philharmonic will be in Pyongyang for Valentine’s Day 2008!
We should recall the mid-1970s to understand the quandary. An American banker-turned-novelist, Paul Erdman, made the bestsellers list in 1976 with his novel, “The Crash of ‘79.” It is a political fictional thriller in which the King of Persia, portrayed as a demented megalomaniac ruler, secretly obtains nuclear weapons and launches a blitzkrieg to dominate the Middle East, cripple the world’s oil supply, and ruin the financial system. Erdman’s imaginary tale reflected American anxieties of that era-- the confusion of post-war Vietnam, the adverse impact of that war on American finances that devalued the dollar and forced the abandonment of the gold standard, and the spike in oil prices that ensued. It also reflected the politics of the Kissinger era and the pronounced American awkwardness about a strong Muslim country as police of the Persian Gulf and a front against the “evil” USSR. Some three decades later, the same antiquated Cold War 1950’s rhetoric is hardened into a pseudo-paradigm and a riddle that frames America’s view of the Muslim world.
Most fascinating is that Mr. Erdman wrote this novel after being convicted and serving time in a Swiss prison for breach of trust and reckless currency speculation as the president of a Swiss bank. Is the world now suffering from yet another serious breach of trust? Or is it all a massive intellectual bankruptcy caused by a few deceptive speculators?
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