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The Next Quagmire - By Chris Hedges

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                          VIEWPOINT
"Exploring The Powerful Issues & Emotions of The Middle East" 
  Reaching out to 51,228 Viewpoint readers around the globe
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Editor's Note:

 Today is an article from the Pulitzer Prize winning
 journalist, Chris Hedges. While he no longer writes
 for the NY Times, he has developed his analytical
 skills to surpass other MSM journalists. We think
 he is spot on.

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The Next Quagmire - By Chris Hedges

The most effective diplomats, like the most effective 
intelligence officers and foreign correspondents, possess 
empathy. They have the intellectual, cultural and 
linguistic literacy to get inside the heads of those they 
must analyze or cover. 

They know the vast array of historical, religious, economic 
and cultural antecedents that go into making up decisions 
and reactions. And because of this - endowed with the 
ability to communicate and more able to find ways of 
resolving conflicts through diplomacy - they are less 
prone to blunders. 

But we live in an age where dialogue is dismissed and 
empathy is suspect. We prefer the illusion that we can 
dictate events through force. It hasn't worked well in 
Iraq. It hasn't worked well in Afghanistan. And it won't 
work in Iran. 

But those who once tried to reach out and understand, who 
developed expertise to explain the world to us and our-
selves to the world, no longer have a voice in the new 
imperial project. We are instead governed and informed by 
moral and intellectual trolls. 

To make rational decisions in international relations we 
must perceive how others see us. We must grasp how they 
think about us and be sensitive to their fears and 
insecurities. But this is becoming hard to accomplish. 

Our embassies are packed with analysts whose main attribute 
is long service in the armed forces and who frequently 
report to intelligence agencies rather than the State 
Department. Our area specialists in the State Department 
are ignored by the ideologues driving foreign policy. Their 
complex view of the world is an inconvenience. And foreign 
correspondents are an endangered species, along with 
foreign coverage. 

We speak to the rest of the globe in the language of 
violence. The proposed multibillion-dollar arms supply 
package for the Persian Gulf countries is the newest form 
of weapons-systems-as-message. U.S. 

Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns was rather blunt 
about the deal. He told the International Herald Tribune 
that the arms package "says to the Iranians and Syrians 
that the United States is the major power in the Middle 
East and will continue to be and is not going away." 

The arrogant call for U.S. hegemony over the rest of the 
globe is making enemies of a lot of people who might be 
predisposed to support us, even in the Middle East. And 
it is terrifying those, such as the Iraqis, Iranians and 
Syrians, whom we have demonized. Empathy and knowledge, 
the qualities that make real communication possible, have 
been discarded. We use tough talk and big weapons deals 
to communicate. We spread fear, distrust and violence. 
And we expect missile systems to protect us. 

"Imagine an Iranian government that was powerful, radical, 
and in possession of nuclear weapons; imagine the threat 
that would pose to Israel and to the American-led balance 
of power, which has been so important in the Middle East 
since the close of the Second World War," Burns said in a 
speech at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in 
Boston last April 11. "That is our first challenge." 

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"Our second challenge is that Iran continues to be the 
central banker of Middle East terrorism," he went on. "It 
is the leading funder and director of Hamas, Hezbollah, 
Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the 
Liberation of Palestine general command. Third, Iran is 
in our judgment a major violator of the human rights of 
its own people; it denies religious, political, and press 
rights to the people of a very great country representing 
a very great civilization. 

And so we see a problem that is going to be with us for a 
long time, and we are trying to fashion a strategy that 
will work for the long term."
   
George W. Bush's latest salvo, on Aug. 28, was more of the 
same. "Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead 
to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known 
for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear 
holocaust," he said. Bush warned that the United States 
and its allies would confront Iran "before it is too late." 

These kinds of words, pouring out of the administration, 
send a clear message to any Iranian: You are in trouble. 
Bend to our will or we destroy you. These were the same 
words, with a few minor changes, that the Bush 
administration delivered to Saddam Hussein, who, despite 
numerous compromises, including letting the U.N. inspectors 
back into his country, was overthrown and put to death 
during a U.S. occupation. 
   
And the Iranians know that without the bomb, which no 
intelligence agency thinks they can produce for a few 
years, they are now probably going to be attacked. 

The Pentagon has reportedly drawn up plans for a series of 
air strikes against 1,200 targets in Iran. The air attacks 
are designed to cripple the Iranians' military capability 
in three days. The Bushehr nuclear power plant, along with 
targets in Saghand and Yazd, the uranium enrichment 
facility in Natanz, a heavy-water plant and radioisotope 
facility in Arak, the Ardekan Nuclear Fuel Unit, and the 
uranium conversion facility and nuclear technology center 
in Isfahan, will all probably be struck by the United 
States and perhaps even Israeli warplanes. 

The Tehran Nuclear Research Center, the Tehran molybdenum, 
iodine and xenon radioisotope production facility, the 
Tehran Jabr Ibn Hayan Multipurpose Laboratories, and the 
Kalaye Electric Co. in the Tehran suburbs will also most 
likely come under attack. 

But then what? We don't have the troops to invade. And we 
don't have anyone minding the helm who knows the slightest 
thing about Persian culture or the Middle East. There is 
no one in power in Washington with the empathy to get it. 
We will lurch blindly into a catastrophe of our own 
creation. 

It is not hard to imagine what will happen. Iranian 
Shabab-3 and Shabab-4 missiles, which cannot reach the 
United States, will be launched at Israel, as well as 
American military bases and the Green Zone in Baghdad. 

Expect massive American casualties, especially in Iraq, 
where Iranian agents and their Iraqi allies will be able 
to call in precise coordinates. The Strait of Hormuz, 
which is the corridor for 20 percent of the world's oil 
supply, will be shut down. Chinese-supplied C-801 and 
C-802 anti-shipping missiles, mines and coastal artillery 
will target U.S. shipping, along with Saudi oil production 
and oil export centers. 

Oil prices will skyrocket to well over $4 a gallon. The 
dollar will tumble against the euro. Hezbollah forces in 
southern Lebanon, interpreting the war as an attack on all 
Shiites, will fire rockets into northern Israel. Israel, 
already struck by missiles from Tehran, will begin 
retaliatory raids on Lebanon and Iran. Pakistan, with a 
huge Shiite minority, will reach greater levels of 
instability. 

The unrest could result in the overthrow of the weakened 
American ally President Pervez Musharraf and usher into 
power Islamic radicals. Pakistan could become the first 
radical Islamic state to possess a nuclear weapon. The 
neat little war with Iran, which few Democrats oppose, 
has the potential to ignite a regional inferno. 

We have rendered the nation deaf and dumb. We no longer 
have the capacity for empathy. We prefer to amuse ourselves 
with trivia and gossip that pass for news rather than 
understand. We are blinded by our military prowess. We 
believe that huge explosions and death are an effective 
form of communication. And the rest of the world is 
learning to speak our language. 

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The author is Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer prize-winning
reporter, who was the Middle East bureau chief for The 
NY Times. He spent seven years in the Middle East and 
reported frequently from Iran. His latest book is 
"American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on 
America." 
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