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Ross Nelson, Published March 24 2012

Nelson: We wallow in hillbilly ignorance

A Gallup poll shows only 8 percent of Americans view Iran favorably, a lower rate than that of nations we’ve warred with, such as North Korea. America has been a one-sided aggressor toward Iran for decades, so it’s hard to imagine what offense Iran committed to end up being America’s most disliked country.

In 1953, the CIA, under Teddy Roosevelt’s son, Kermit, overthrew Iran’s duly elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. The goal was to split oil revenue with England, which owned and exploited Iran’s oil industry before Mossadegh nationalized it. America restored the Shah to the throne, from which he ruled with murder and terror for a quarter of a century with our help.

No wonder Iranians revolted. Even less wonder that they saw us as enemies. They stormed the American Embassy in Tehran, holding officials there hostage for better than a year. Except for our meddling, Iran might have been an ally.

When Iraq’s Saddam Hussein waged aggressive war against Iran, we were there to supply him with material and intelligence. Wasn’t it enough that we overthrew Iran’s democracy and substituted a tyrant? When an Iraq war plane rocketed the USS Stark, President Ronald Reagan put ultimate blame on – you guessed it – Iran. In an incident that seems to have gone down the memory hole, the USS Vincennes, which was in Iranian territorial waters, shot down an Iranian airliner, slaughtering 290 civilians. The USS Vincennes’ captain was later given a medal for his tour of duty.

And now America’s leaders and others are beating the drums for war with Iran. Iran, according to all hands doesn’t have a nuclear weapon and isn’t working to build one. It does have a legal nuclear power program. All of the GOP candidates save Ron Paul, along with President Barack Obama, promise war and destruction – even implying the use of nuclear weapons if necessary (“all options are on the table”) – against a country that hasn’t fought an offensive war for centuries. Unless, of course, it bows down to America and stops the nuclear program it’s entitled to have. (Odd that our fury doesn’t apply to North Korea.)

We have launched sanction after sanction against Iran, some of which are tantamount to war. If we or Israel go to war with Iran we could see, experts say, gasoline from $6 to $10 a gallon for an undetermined amount of time. The West’s economies could deflate like a punctured soufflé. We’re already seeing prices rise as speculators bet on straitened supply in the near future. And for what, other than rank imperialism?

How is it that we wander around with millions of devices that are Internet-capable, with vast virtual libraries at our command, and yet are as innocent of crucial matters of war and peace as the most isolated hillbilly? Our willful ignorance has allowed us to be easily manipulated again.

Nelson is a Fargo postal worker and regular contributor to The Forum’s commentary page.