A War of Self-Destruction - Iran
by Chris Hedges
An attack on Iran, which Israeli and Bush
administration officials appear set to carry out if Iranian uranium
enrichment is not halted, would ignite a regional war in the Middle
East and lead to economic collapse and political upheaval in the
In short and simple terms, we would be
plunged into a depression that would make the Great Depression
of the 1930s in which I spent my childhood look like boom times,"
said William R. Polk, former professor of history at the University
of Chicago and a member of the Policy Planning Council under President
Kennedy. "Industries would fail, banks would collapse, government
revenues would dry up, universities would have to close, health
care, even as limited as it now is for roughly 75 million Americans,
would virtually cease. In short, something like [what] the South
suffered at the end of the Civil War would plague the country."
The passage of vast amounts of oil and
liquefied gas through the Persian Gulf would be disrupted. Iranian
attacks, carried out with rocket- and bomb-equipped speedboats
and submarines, would be deadly and effective. A classified Pentagon
war game in 2002 simulated these swarming attacks by Iranian speedboats
packed with explosives in the gulf; the Navy lost 16 major warships,
according to a report in The New York Times. Iranian oil, which
makes up 8 percent of the world's energy supply, would instantly
be taken off the market. And oil would jump to over $500 a barrel
and perhaps, as the conflict dragged on, to over $750 a barrel.
Our petroleum-based economy would come to a halt.
Israel would be hit by Iranian Shahab-3
ballistic missiles. Hezbollah, with its new store of Iranian-supplied
rockets that allegedly can reach any part of Israel, including
Israel's nuclear plant at Dimona, would enter the conflict. Israel
would lash back. Terrorist attacks on U.S. targets would become
frequent. U.S. casualties in Iraq would mount as the Iranians
rained missiles down on U.S. bases and installations, including
our imperial city, the Green Zone. Chaos and mayhem would grip
the Middle East. The world financial markets would go haywire.
"Even at today's price, as you know,
14 airlines have gone out of business while others are hovering
on the brink of bankruptcy and most have curtailed service and
laid off personnel," said Polk, one of the country's leading
scholars of the Arab world. "At double or triple today's
price, none could fly unless nationalized. A whole range of other
industries would be quickly drawn into the quicksand. Ironically,
war would push America into a form of socialist economy."
The U.S. economy is already tottering.
We recently witnessed the second-largest bank failure in U.S.
history, and there are fears that as many as 150 banks could fail
over the next 12 to 18 months. There will be 6.5 million foreclosures
over the next five years, according to Wall Street analysts. The
government is furiously pumping billions of taxpayer dollars into
private corporations to keep them afloat. The Congress bailed
out the shareholders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These bizarre
"government-sponsored enterprises" own or guarantee
half the mortgages in the country-some $5.1 trillion. The Federal
Reserve evoked rarely used emergency powers to put billions of
taxpayer dollars at risk to stop the meltdown of a non-bank, Bear
Stearns, which it never regulated. More than $300 billion has
been written down so far. Losses, by the time we are done, could
exceed $1 trillion.
The already staggering debt generated
by the war in Iraq would mushroom with an attack on Iran. Fighting
wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, we would soon be struggling
to pay off a debt of at least two or three times the present amount.
This is a weight the U.S. economy cannot bear, especially as the
dollar tumbles against the euro and other major currencies. The
government has borrowed abroad roughly a quarter of our annual
national income in order to pay for the Iraq debacle. We have
been told for the first time by a sovereign fund (South Korean,
one of the world's largest) that it will no longer buy U.S. Treasury
bonds. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz estimates that the final
cost of the war in Iraq, once all the hidden costs are added up,
could be as high as $7 trillion.
"Financial capitalism is crashing,"
wrote independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader. "So
the lights are on late in Washington's Federal Reserve, SEC and
Treasury Department trying to figure out how socialism (your tax
dollars and credits) can once again bail out these big time gamblers
with our money. Reckless, self-enriching capitalists get on your
knees and thank the rescuing Washington socialists, for without
them, you would surely be in chains."
A war with Iran would also have grave
political consequences. The specter of millions of Americans driven
out of their homes, no longer able to afford basic necessities,
out of work and enraged, would, as it has throughout history,
embolden messianic right-wing and proto-fascist movements. Given
the potential for social unrest, basic freedoms would be curtailed
and in some cases abolished in the name of order and national
security. The radical fringes of the Christian right could rise
up with a vengeance. They would happily ally themselves with an
assortment of oddballs, lunatics and corporate behemoths from
Blackwater mercenaries to frightened capitalists at Halliburton.
It was economic collapse, along with a climate of fear and instability,
that was used to build the fascist and communist movements that
plagued Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union during the last century.
These same forces led to the collapse of the former Yugoslavia.
We are not immune to these distortions.
But maybe those who advocate a war with
Iran know all this. Maybe this is what they want. Maybe they understand
that a war with Iran would finally kill off our weakened and anemic
democracy. Maybe they see this as the dawn of a new era, an era
when the last impediments to a global totalitarian capitalism
can finally be removed and we can all be ground under the corporate
jack boot, from Shanghai to New Delhi to Ohio. There are huge
corporations that make obscene profits from human misery. They
run our health care industry. They run our oil and gas companies.
They run our bloated weapons industry. They run Wall Street and
the major investment firms. They run our manufacturing firms.
They also, ominously, run our government.
Chris Hedges, who graduated from Harvard
Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent
for The New York Times, is the author of "American Fascists:
The Christian Right and the War on America."