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US/IRAN: FRAMING THE ISSUE


By Susan Lees, A member of Greater Boston United for Justice with Peace

As the Bush administration increases its volume on Iran, we in the peace movement are moving to prevent a military attack on that country. Part of our challenge is to frame our messages on this issue well for our activists, our Congresspeople, the broader public and the media – and for our ongoing movement work. These are my thoughts about framing. I hope they will engender will more discussion, because I think wide discussion is greatly needed at this time.

Many of our initial messages in the U.S. peace movement have been the context of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation – responding, I think, to the appalling information that the Bush administration is considering using nuclear weapons in an attack on Iran. At this point, however, I strongly urge us to shift our framing to talk about Iran (and nuclear disarmament/non-proliferation) in the wider context of the Bush agenda. The Bush administration has no policy of nuclear disarmament in regard to Iran; (if they did, they would have held talks long ago (and would do so now). They have a policy of regime change and crushing Iran, a country that stands in the way of their empire building. Most of our initial framing does something but not enough to expose the real situation and puts us largely on a field of Bush/Rove’s choice (WMD’s, non-proliferation ) where we and others cannot have a real dialogue about the real Bush agenda.

Most of us well know that nuclear non-proliferation is the smokescreen under which the Bush Administration is pursing a much larger global agenda; Iran is the next step in their worldwide empire building strategy. This strategy calls for control of the Middle East and of its oil, as a key step in their quest for worldwide US corporate and military domination. It is their ‘Project for a New American Century’. (see the 2006 National Security Strategy, and the Project for a New American Century) . Just as with
9-11 they are seizing an opportunity which can justify the so-called ‘pre-emptive’ invasion of another country (an opportunity this time given to them by the Iranian decision to break the seals at their nuclear facilities, and by the rhetoric of the Islamic Republic’s leader.) It is undoubtedly true that the Bush administration does not want Iran to have a nuclear weapon; but that is not why it is going after Iran in this way (no negotiations, forcing sanctions and invasion) , at this speed (intense), at this time (opportunity, elections?).

Why Iran? Larry Everest writes: “The problem for US rulers is that the Islamic Republic is something of a barrier to its unfettered domination of the Persian Gulf. Iran poses a challenge because it is a large state with enormous oil reserves and a relatively large population, and its rulers are seeking to maintain their rule and extend their influence in ways that conflict with US goals.. For instance, the Islamic Republic has ties to other powers like Russia and China, and it supports forces in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq that have come into sharp conflict with the US and Israel”....”This is much more than a nuclear issue”, one European diplomat told Hersh. “That’s just a rallying point...the Administration believes it cannot be fixed unless they control the hearts and minds of Iran. The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years.”

It is our job in the peace movement to expose what is really going on and we have to be clear about the agenda, tactics and brutality of the Bush region.. And to find the language in which to convey the fact that they are after radical transformation, leading with military might and involving core changes to the internal structures of other countries (see Bremer laws, Iraq Constitution) . There are no half-way measures, no negotiated solutions and no diplomatic settlements for this regime. It may be good to put out such things as “return the Iran nuclear issue to IAEA”, call for regional negotiations in the Middle East, call for a Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. But we we need to be careful that we don’t collude with the idea that the Bush people ‘just don’t know what they are doing’, and hey, here is a better idea. They know what they are doing.. and they are ruthless.

I think that having our primary focus on nuclear weapons also plays into Bush’s/Rove’s hands in another way... where they can be claiming (as usual) that, however ineptly, they are trying to protect us. They are not trying to protect us. They are trying to rule the world... As long as they can play “we are trying to protect you”, people (and people’s emotional pull) will support them in some measure. (yes, they are ‘good’ at the fear game)

Moving beyond framing, we need the larger analysis, of course, in order to think strategically about how the peace movement can help to effectively stop an attack on Iran. Who and what has the power to stop Bush... And how might we act in regard to these. But that is another and crucial discussion

I hope we can, together, find effective ways to talk about/frame our messages re the larger US agenda and Iran.
I wish I had time today to offer concrete suggestions/wording for a revised framing. But this is a beginning.. and there’s tomorrow!

Finally.. and speaking now personally as a white woman from a middle class rural background .. I am becoming more and more keenly aware that I am going to have to move past any timidity, carefulness, niceness or ‘following the rules’ . We are up against great cruelty.. and the rules are wide open.

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