A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing

Wrong kind of wolf, but still a funny picture.
Wrong kind of wolf, but still a funny picture.

I kind of feel bad for the Sunday show hosts on those rare occasions when they book an actual world leader, be it the US President or a foreign leader.

No, Senator, I'm sorry, I wasn't talking about you. YOU LOST THAT ELECTION, OK?
No, Senator, I’m sorry, I wasn’t talking about you. I know you’re a “dream Sunday show guest,” but YOU LOST THAT ELECTION, OK?

It has to be tough to interview these guys; I mean, the default for a Sunday show host is to babble pundit CW back at their guests in a series of inane, unrelated questions, daring to ask a follow-up or challenge a false statement about once every cycle of the Mayan Long Calendar, but how much more careful would you feel you had to be when interviewing somebody of actual import–a president, prime minister, or king? The pressure to be congenial and let the guest talk all over you is probably huge, because, let’s face it, you care a lot more about getting the next world leader to come on your softball program and pop some ratings for you than you do about conducting a tough interview with the one you’ve already booked.

And so it goes even when your invited guest is a pathological liar like Benjamin Netanyahu:

Which brings us to the CBS Sunday show Face the Nation (7/14/13), where host Bob Schieffer announced at the top of the show:

Only on CBS, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Iran is dangerously close to having a nuclear weapon. And is moving fast to develop an intercontinental missile that could deliver it to the United States.

Schieffer would later add, before the interview began, that they would discuss “the big story overseas”–which is “Iran and its continuing effort to build a nuclear weapon.”

Actually Iran is not known to be continuing any such effort–they’ve long denied it, and the view of U.S. intelligence agencies is that Iran is not known to be pursuing nuclear weapons.

But you’d hardly get that impression from the CBS interview. It began with Netanyahu explaining that the Iranians “have taken heed of the red line that I sketched out at the U.N.”– a reference to the speech where he brandished an absurd cartoon drawing of a bomb.

He raised the stakes by claiming that Iran is building ICBMs to reach the American mainland within a few years. They’re pursuing an alternate route of plutonium, that is enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb. One route, plutonium. Another route, ICBMs, intercontinental ballistic missiles to reach you.

There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of these missile claims; and even if they were building such weapons, they would be 5 to 10 years away, according to some experts (Wired, 2/24/12).

I hope I’m not spoiling the rest of the piece for you when I tell you that Bob Schieffer amazingly didn’t press Netanyahu very hard on any of these claims.

Ah, there's our wolf now.
Ah, there’s our wolf now.

Bibi Netanyahu doesn’t care if Iran is actually planning to build a nuclear bomb, and he really doesn’t care if Iran is working on an ICBM that could reach America. He cares that he can sell the western media on the claim that Iran is planning to build a nuclear bomb, and an ICBM. This is easily done, since the western media is already well-conditioned to reflexively report the worst about Iran and its intentions, and has absolutely no capacity to report accurately on Iranian affairs, nor any interest in developing such a capacity. As long as Iran is on the brink of attaining nuclear capability and launching ICBMs at Israel and the United States, and we’ve been mere hours away from this particular Armageddon since 1979, then We Must Stand With Our Ally Israel No Matter What, which allows Our Ally Israel to do all sorts of interesting things–starve the people living in Gaza, steal more land from the occupied West Bank, make plans to ethnically cleanse the Negev of Arab Bedouin, etc.–without America or anyone else in the west really paying much attention. Bibi Netanyahu wants America to go to war with Iran, because Bibi Netanyahu wants America to be perpetually at war with part or all of the Islamic World so that the nation he leads can commit atrocity after atrocity against the Palestinians without ever having to account for its behavior.

Netanyahu is also not a big fan of Iran’s newly elected president, Hassan Rouhani, convinced that he’ll be just as bad as History’s Greatest Clown-Monster, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, despite the fact that Rouhani campaigned against Ahmadinejad’s record and that he hasn’t, you know, actually taken office yet so that one might be able to form an educated opinion of his administration. Netanyahu won’t wait and make an educated assessment of Rouhani because doing so would run counter to his best interests, which depend on doing as much fear-mongering about Iran to American policymakers and the American public as he possibly can. So, as far as Bibi is concerned, at least when he’s on American TV, the only difference between Ahmadinejad and Rouhani is in the packaging:

Netanyahu also criticized new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whom the United States has expressed optimism about as a more moderate alternative to former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“He’s criticizing his predecessor for being a wolf in wolf’s clothing,” Netanyahu said. “His strategy is be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, smile and build a bomb.”

That’s scary, except that Rouhani is the Iranian President-Elect, not the “new Iranian President,” so the only way you could determine whether he’s a wolf in any kind of clothing is if you really didn’t give a shit what kind of president he’s going to make and were only interested in playing to your audience’s presumed fear and ignorance. Funny thing about wolves, though; they come in all kinds:

Israel officially announced Tuesday that Ron Dermer, a longtime aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is set to become the country’s next ambassador in Washington.

Some of Dermer’s policy positions are seen as more conservative than Netanyahu’s. In a 2009 article published by online news outlet Ynet, Dermer was quoted as calling the two-state solution “childish.” He later modified his comments, saying he had been referring to the media’s coverage of the issue, which he said did not address the “real problem.”

That’s great that Israel’s new US Ambassador is further to the right than Netanyahu is; I can only assume that means he’d like to resume airstrikes on Gaza instead of just waiting until they all starve to death. And I’d love to know what the “real problem” is with the two-state settlement; I have a feeling that it has to do with the fact that one of those states might have some still-breathing Palestinians in it.

It’s clear that the Iranian government is the one being led by wolves who are a threat to world peace. No question about that.

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